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Gareth Southgate warns England players not to damage connection with supporters

England Training Session and Media Day – St George’s Park
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Gareth Southgate has warned his young players they risk damaging the relationship between the England team and the public after the latest breach of coronavirus rules.

Southgate has revealed Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho will miss Thursday’s friendly against Wales.

The trio breached Covid-19 guidelines when they reportedly gathered for a surprise birthday party for Chelsea striker Abraham and are yet to join up with Southgate’s 30-man squad at St George’s Park.

It is another example of players breaking the restrictions after Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were sent home from Iceland last month after breaking bio-bubble rules.

While the run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup helped build bridges with the country and with England fans – Southgate has warned the younger players who have come into his squad since then may not have the same good faith from the public if rules continue to be broken.

“I’ve also talked before about the connection with the fans that we’ve worked very hard over the last three or four years to bring back,” he said.

“Key to that has been the contribution of players that have been with us. We’ve got 10 with us this time who were with us in Russia.

“They’ve done a lot of good work with us, with their clubs and in the communities and they’ve played well and got results.

“Some of the younger ones haven’t done that yet with England. They don’t have that credit in the bank.

Southgate is keen not to jeopardise the relationship with the public

Southgate is keen not to jeopardise the relationship with the public (PA)

“They’ve got to prove themselves and they have got to remember that it is an honour to play for England and all these things moving forward do play a part in your thinking.

“I’m not going to be too moralistic because we’ve all made errors in our lives. I’ve been a player, I’ve had nights out so I’m not sitting here saying that I haven’t done any of the things.

“We’re living in really unique times with the Covid regulations and everybody from politicians to footballers and businessmen have erred within that field.

“I think as a country in terms of fighting the virus we need to get a little bit back on track of working together.”

Southgate was also concerned about what such issues could cause internally if they were to occur during major tournaments in the coming years as he and senior players held a meeting when the squad gathered at St George’s Park on Monday.

“I don’t think we can attribute what happens with players when they are with their clubs as the responsibility of England,” Southgate said on the eve of the Wales clash.

“But what we did earlier this week, we had a really good meeting with all of the players where we talked about the responsibility of being an England player and how the spotlight is different.

“When the story broke earlier in the week there was no mention of the clubs they play for, they were England players and the players need to be aware of that.

“When these incidents happen they take a lot of energy and focus away from the game and we can’t afford that. If you’re going into major tournaments and you have major incidents they can derail you, and I’ve seen that.”

Chilwell and Abraham will miss the Wales clash, along with Sancho

Chilwell and Abraham will miss the Wales clash, along with Sancho (Mike Hewitt/PA)

In terms of Abraham, Sancho and Chilwell, they will definitely miss the Wales game and there is still no definite timing on when they will start training as they face tests for coronavirus before they can be involved.

If they are unable to join up with the squad by Friday, they will not be part of UEFA testing and will therefore also be absent for Sunday’s Nations League clash with Belgium.

“We do have an issue in terms of the Covid guidelines and making sure any player coming in is as low-risk as possible,” Southgate added.

“So we’re having to monitor the players – they will have been tested today and tomorrow. They will miss the Wales game and if they’re not with us by Friday then they will miss the Belgium game too.”