areth Southgate has played down the chances of a much-changed England XI for Tuesday’s friendly against Scotland, saying it would be “ridiculous” to “experiment excessively” at Hampden Park.
England’s clash with its oldest and fiercest rival – to mark the 150th anniversary of the first international match between the two nations on November 30, 1872 – is the first friendly match in 18 months, since the two wins against Switzerland and the United Kingdom Ivory Coast in March 2022.
Southgate was criticized for sticking with experienced players Jordan Henderson, now playing in Saudi Arabia, and out-of-favour Manchester defender in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ukraine in Euro 2024 qualifying United’s Harry Maguire but was expected to make changes against the Scots.
But the England coach says he can’t “play around” with the team against Steve Clarke’s in-form side, who could become the first nation to reach next summer’s European Championships if results are positive on Tuesday.
“We need to find the right balance between physical freshness – we had a day less preparation – experience, getting to know some players, winning, playing well: actually the usual things expected of us at England,” Southgate said.
“But the first thing is that we can’t mess around with the team because we are playing against a top team who are doing their best and giving us a really demanding challenge. For this reason, one must not experiment excessively.” would be ridiculous.
However, Southgate admitted that the occasion would give him the opportunity to find out “a bit more” about the characters of some of his less experienced players, raising the possibility that the likes of Levi Colwill or Eberechi Eze could be in attendance.
Southgate added: “We see it as a really good test for us as a team. We will learn a lot about the group and the individual players within it. We’re playing against really quality opposition in an intimidating atmosphere, and they are the kind of nights that have been an important part of our progress.
“Some players will have experienced this, others won’t. It will be great to find out a bit more about her. We have to compete, we will be overwhelmed if we don’t compete.”
England had comfortably passed qualification with four wins in as many games, including against Italy in Naples, before facing Ukraine in Wroclaw.
The result has led to familiar criticism of Southgate’s tactics and decisions, but he brushed aside the questions and said the scrutiny over him would never end.
“We weren’t as happy to get a point as we could have been,” Southgate said. “It’s still a really good result and we saw what happened in our group later that night.”
“When we beat North Macedonia people questioned their quality and the level of the opposition, but Italy went there and couldn’t get a win, so we honestly know the cycle with England.”
“I’ve been in the job long enough now. It’s constant, it never stops. But we need to really focus internally on what’s important to us, check on our own terms and know what we’re working towards and what we’re comparing ourselves to, really.”
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/england-southgate-scotland-henderson-maguire-b1106307.html England: Gareth Southgate rules out “ridiculous” changes for historic Scotland friendly