Gareth Southgate has revealed his heartache at fans not being able to attend England games and hopes their safe return to stadiums can happen as quickly as possible.
Southgate named a new-look England side for Thursday’s friendly win over Wales, including debuts for Dominic Calvert-Lewin – who scored the opening goal – and Bukayo Saka.
But the absence of supporters took away from what was a memorable moment in those players’ careers.
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“The other night was a classic example of why we miss it so much,” said Southgate.
“To have so many lads making their England debuts and some of them scoring their first goals, playing at Wembley in front of nobody is such a shame for them, not being able to share those moments. They’re moments that live with you forever.
“We know what it would mean for the game. We don’t have a game without fans really – that interaction, the atmosphere. The level of performance goes even higher when fans are in the stadium. We’re all hoping that can happen as quickly as possible.
“Equally we all understand how complicated a decision that is. I don’t envy the government with trying to deal with the complexity of the virus, to walk into the office every day and have those sorts of complicated decisions to make across so many industries and aspects of life is incredibly difficult. I don’t want to add to their worries.”
The possibility of reopening sporting venues at capacity is one of the key issues that will be discussed when Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP goes before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on October 15.
The government initially planned for the return of some spectators to sports venues in England from October 1, only for the plans to be scrapped as coronavirus cases began to rise.
“Football will try to push its case and I’m sure feel it can bring fans back safely,” said Southgate. “But we also have to accept we’re trying to combat a very dangerous virus.”
Abraham and Sancho available for selection
Southgate confirmed Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho could return in Sunday’s UEFA Nations League fixture Belgium, live on Sky Sports.
Abraham, Sancho and Ben Chilwell missed the Wales game after they breached coronavirus regulations by attending a party at Abraham’s London flat.
Southgate says he has now drawn a line under that incident.
“Tammy and Jadon both trained this morning, so everybody is available,” said Southgate.
“They’ve obviously missed a bit of training, so that’s a concern in terms of their load through the week.
“But that situation is done, they’re back with the group and we move forward.”
Speaking about Chilwell, who will not play against Belgium due to a non-Covid-related illness, Southgate said: “Ben will be tested today (Saturday) and we will have to wait for the results of that tomorrow and then we can make a decision.”
Rashford awarded MBE for services to vulnerable children
Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford has been awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable children in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours list was due to be published in June, but was pushed back to enable nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the crisis.
Rashford, 22, successfully lobbied the Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy during lockdown, ensuring children in need would receive meals across the summer.
“Firstly it’s an amazing achievement,” said Southgate. “Wonderful for him and his family but he didn’t start this project to get recognition. It’s something he had been affected by and cared passionately about.
“For someone of his age to be able to make the difference he has is a phenomenal achievement. We’re all very proud of him.
“We gave him a special round of applause this morning. As a group we’re very close, we’ve watched him grow up, even though he’s still only 22. You can only marvel at what he’s achieved and the difference he’s made.”
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