Gareth Southgate ponders putting faith in Nick Pope for England’s opening game against Wales
Gareth Southgate is considering naming an experimental side for Thursday’s home nations clash against Wales, with Nick Pope pushing for a Euro 2020 audition.
The England boss is planning to rotate his squad for the forthcoming matches against Wales, Belgium and Denmark, and is eager to have a look at Burnley shot-stopper Pope in at least one of the games.
Jordan Pickford’s position as England’s undisputed No 1 was once again thrown into doubt last weekend after the Everton goalkeeper made another high-profile error in the 4-2 victory over Brighton.
Southgate kept faith with Pickford against Iceland and Denmark despite growing pressure from Pope.
But the England boss wants to give all his goalkeepers — including Dean Henderson — an opportunity to impress between now and next summer’s Euros.
Pope was unlucky not to be given an opportunity to play during the previous fixtures, when Southgate stayed loyal to Pickford.
However, the 28-year-old is expected to be given a chance to impress this time, with the former Charlton man hoping for a start against Wales Thursday night. Southgate will fully utilise his squad during the triple-header amid concerns about fatigue among Premier League managers.
The England boss is planning to give some of his inexperienced contingent an opportunity to shine against Ryan Giggs’s side at Wembley and will play a stronger team against Roberto Martinez’s Belgium on Sunday.
Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, midfielders Harvey Barnes and Bukayo Saka and defender Reece James — who are all in the squad for the first time — are hoping to make their debuts against Wales.
One of the biggest selection issues Southgate must resolve is who he plays on the left side of defence, given Ben Chilwell’s unavailability after breaching Covid regulations by attending club-mate Tammy Abraham’s surprise 23rd birthday party.
The national-team boss is now without a recognised left back in the squad.