Jordan Pickford was dropped by Everton for last weekend's game with Newcastle; Southgate says Pickford remains his No 1; Southgate: "There is nobody who I think is challenging seriously at the moment to push him out of that position."
Friday 6 November 2020 07:00, UK
Gareth Southgate has given his backing to Jordan Pickford and says there is no one seriously challenging him for the England No 1 shirt.
Pickford was dropped by Everton for last weekend's Premier League defeat at Newcastle after enduring a difficult few weeks.
He was fortunate not to be sent off for the challenge on Virgil van Dijk during last month's Merseyside derby which left the Liverpool defender requiring knee surgery, while he has conceded two goals in each of his last three Premier League games.
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England boss Southgate offered his support to the 26-year-old and says he remains his first-choice goalkeeper for the upcoming games against the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland.
"When people say I have been loyal to him, he has deserved that," said Southgate. "His performances for us have been excellent so that has not been a difficult decision for me.
"We have some competition for places but I would have to say that there is nobody who I think is challenging seriously at the moment to push him out of that position.
"In terms of how his club are looking after him, he has got a hugely experienced manager there who has won everything in the game. He is in a very good place."
Southgate also leapt to the defence of his captain, Harry Kane, after accusations the Spurs striker dived to win a crucial penalty in Sunday's game against Brighton.
Kane defended his actions, describing it as a "50-50 decision", and Southgate believes he is not given enough protection by referees at international level.
"All I've seen in our matches is Harry getting kicked from pillar to post, and not really protected on the field," said Southgate.
"I can only speak about the games with us through the World Cup and beyond. Every time we play he seems to be a target for opposition defenders - opposition players seem to get away with a hell of a lot against him.
"I would welcome a bit more protection for Harry."
Phil Foden has been recalled to the England squad by manager Southgate, but Mason Greenwood's exile continues.
The Manchester City and Manchester United youngsters were sent home from Reykjavik in September for breaching coronavirus rules while on England duty and were omitted from last month's squad.
Southgate has recalled Foden - who has scored three goals in six Premier League games since the incident - for the friendly against the Republic of Ireland on November 12 and Nations League fixtures against Belgium and Iceland, but Greenwood remains absent.
There seemed to be space for Greenwood as in-form Southampton striker Danny Ings is out injured, but Southgate opted against replacing him with either Greenwood or Newcastle's Callum Wilson.
Foden's return means there is no place for Harvey Barnes, who made his debut against Wales last month.
Harry Maguire and Reece James are both included despite facing one and two-match suspensions respectively for their red cards against Denmark.
Raheem Sterling was given an expected recall having missed the previous month's international break due to a small hamstring injury.
Other players who have been pushing to be in contention but missed out include Aston Villa midfielder Ross Barkley and Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw.
Shaw's Old Trafford team-mate Dean Henderson is the only uncapped player in Southgate's 29-man squad, with fellow goalkeeper Jordan Pickford selected despite his ongoing inconsistent form for Everton.