Southgate says youngsters will handle hostile Montenegro atmosphere
(Reuters) – After being cheered to the Wembley rafters during the 5-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic, manager Gareth Southgate expects his young England side to face a more hostile 90 minutes in their second Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro on Monday.
The team from the small Balkan state have made life uncomfortable for England before at home and Southgate knows that is likely to be the case again in the Group A clash in Podgorica.
Southgate said he trusted his youngsters to cope, however, and the match would be an important part of their learning curve.
“No hesitation,” Southgate told a news conference when asked if he would have any reservations about fielding players such as 18-year-old Jadon Sancho, who started against the Czechs, and Declan Rice and Callum Hudson-Odoi who made substitute cameos on Friday.
“This is part of their education and to be a top team we’ve got to adapt to every environment we go into.
“Friday at Wembley is always a different experience to going away from home in a qualifier, which is always difficult.”
With Eric Dier ruled out through injury, meaning West Ham’s Rice, who earned his first England cap on Friday having been permitted to switch allegiance from Ireland, could be in line for a first start in the heart of midfield.
“The make-up of the side will get the best out of the players we have here and available and I think we will have a very strong team out,” Southgate said.
“Declan came into the game the other night, which was a great way for him to gain some experience of international football. I would have no hesitation in starting him.”
Montenegro earned draws in their previous home games against England in 2010 and 2013 but their manager Ljubisa Tumbakovic said he could find no weaknesses in Southgate’s in-form side.
“I’m really trying but I can’t,” he said. “We in the coaching team who deal with the players are realistic.
“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro; tomorrow we will play a match with totally different players, new coaches, with different capabilities and different ideas from both teams.
“The model and the way the (England) national team plays is something special.”
England have actually won only one of their four meetings with Montenegro — 4-1 at Wembley in 2013.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)