Published: Sat, March 16, 2019
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Southgate applauds Rice's character after first England call-up

Southgate applauds Rice's character after first England call-up

Newly-eligible Declan Rice was the only new face in Gareth Southgate's England squad for this month's Euro 2020 qualifiers.

One new face in the group is West Ham United's midfielder Declan Rice, who only declared his ambition to switch his global allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England in February.

Heaton could however be a serious threat to Everton's Pickford as far as the England first-choice position goes as he has been in good form for Burnley this season. The likes of Michael Keane and James Tarkowski continue to keep their noses in front of Chris Smalling at centre-back.

He is joined by fellow goalkeepers Jack Butland and Heaton, who earns a recall having been in impressive form for Burnley in 2019.

Tottenham Hotspur duo Dele Alli and Eric Dier were also included having just returned from injury and illness.

Southgate pointed to an article Eni Aluko wrote in "The Guardian" last month, in which the former England worldwide wrote that there "needs to be a much more mature attitude in football towards players who have dual nationality". Young Liverpool defender Joe Gomez is also unavailable due to his ongoing recovery after breaking his ankle in December.

Manchester United midfielder McTominay held talks with both England boss Gareth Southgate and Scotland counterpart Alex McLeish before pledging himself to the latter's cause.

"The fact Declan played three senior global games for us makes it a tad more disappointing, but good luck to the lad, we hope he does really well".

"We've tracked him for quite a while", Southgate said.

Preston-born former Ireland worldwide Kevin Kilbane has been outspoken about Rice's switch and said it "makes a mockery" of global football.

"But his form has been excellent and we like what we've seen in terms of his personality, his character and his leadership qualities. He will fit in very well with the way that we work".

On Ward-Prowse: "We prove Prowsey - this recent spell is his best since we capped him and he's a world-class set-piece taker, but he's only recently got back in the Southampton team".

And he responded to Rice's critics, pointing to the fact that some of them "did not play for the country of their birth", a likely reference to Kilbane. He had that at the weekend [versus Newcastle].

"We have always tried to look at that as ethically as we can".

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