Southgate calls up four uncapped players for friendlies

Manager focused on upcoming World Cup despite current tensions with Russia

Gareth Southgate has said he remains fully focused on preparing England for the World Cup despite the political tensions between the UK and the tournament hosts Russia.

“Clearly it’s a really serious matter and it’s developing very quickly,” he said. “But my job as the England football manager is to concentrate on the football and prepare the team.

“As far as all my briefings and information is, we’re preparing to go to the World Cup – there’s no doubt in our mind that’s what we should be doing. And the only thing at this stage that is of highest importance is the safety and security of our players and absolutely of our travelling supporters. They’re the things we’re focused on really.

“I think it’s a matter that’s completely out of my control really. We are desperate to go to a World Cup and that’s where my remit ends on that matter.”

Southgate was speaking after naming his squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.

Four uncapped players have been called up: Burnley's goalkeeper Nick Pope and his club-mate James Tarkowski, a defender, being joined by the Swansea centre-back Alfie Mawson and Bournemouth's Lewis Cook.

Cook, a midfielder, was captain of the England U-20 team who became world champions last summer. The Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has also been called up and so has Joe Hart, despite the goalkeeper's lack of minutes at West Ham.

The defenders Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Michael Keane were left out. Southgate said it was "probably a very difficult call" to drop Cahill, who has captained England. He said the Chelsea defender could win back favour before the World Cup, adding: "I think there are a few players not in this squad who are certainly not out of our mind."

He has no concerns that Harry Kane will miss the tournament because of a knee injury sustained last Sunday.

“I think the medical reports we have are that for sure he’ll play well before the end of the season,” Southgate said.