Gareth Southgate has told talkSPORT the carnage of England’s 5-3 victory over Kosovo meant a number of his young players were left wanting at the end of this international break.
The likes of Tottenham and Leicester City midfielders Harry Winks and James Maddison were expected to get game time at St Mary’s on Tuesday after missing out on Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Bulgaria.
But they, along with a number of other inexperienced stars hoping for a game, were left on the bench as the Three Lions’ midfield and defence crumbled against the plucky minnows.
Fans were left particularly disappointed by Maddison’s no-show, especially given his brilliant form in a Leicester shirt so far this season and the clamour for his call-up before the squad was announced.
But Southgate explained securing the result was his priority over handing out caps, and admitted Winks and Maddison weren’t the only players he had to disappoint.
“We had ambition to get more people into the games,” the Three Lions boss told talkSPORT’s Nigel Adderley.
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“If you look at young players we’ve played [Declan] Rice, who is still in the very early stages of his international career, and [Jadon] Sancho and Trent [Alexander-Arnold] who only have a handful of caps, and then we got Mason [Mount] onto the pitch twice.
“But when the game goes 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, we can’t just be about giving everybody an opportunity.
“That’s tough on the guys who haven’t got on the pitch, but Tyrone Mings, Joe Gomez and Callum Wilson are all in the same position and our two other goalkeepers who have been brilliant all week are also in the same position.
“It’s a shame for those guys, but they just have to keep playing well for their clubs.”