Gareth Southgate has warned James Maddison he must learn his lesson and prove he is worth a place in the England squad after being handed another opportunity to win his first cap.

The Leicester midfielder was pictured in a casino at the same time as England were losing to the Czech Republic last month after withdrawing from the squad owing to illness but has been a driving force behind his club’s strong start to the season.

Maddison was first selected for last year’s Nations League matches against Croatia and Spain before being recalled last month but has still to make an appearance. Southgate said he had not spoken to the 22-year-old since he was pictured at the casino and said it is now up to Maddison to show his ability on the pitch.

“It would be dangerous territory for me to go on a moral crusade over something I don’t think was a good decision but was in his own time and we had released him from the squad,” he said. “I didn’t think this was one to hinder him in terms of selection but it’s not a good situation for a player when we’re talking about him in Sofia [before England’s qualifier against Bulgaria], and talking about him here and he’s yet to get on the pitch for us.

“So that’s the challenge. You want to be high-performance, low-maintenance. I am prepared to work with players who are more difficult but you’re more likely to back those players if they’ve scored a winner for you and sweated blood for you, and that’s the bond you build with those players over a longer period of time.”

Maddison’s inclusion in a bloated 27-man squad for the matches against Montenegro and Kosovo that also features recalls for John Stones, in place of Michael Keane, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Callum Hudson‑Odoi is an indication of how highly rated he is by Southgate.

With no place for Dele Alli and injury concerns over Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Ross Barkley, who started the matches against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria respectively, it could be a fight between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Maddison to fill one of England’s three midfield roles.

Asked if this represented a last chance for Maddison, Southgate said: “I would imagine he’s got that. He probably didn’t realise what the consequences of going out might be and he’s not been with an England team before. He wouldn’t, perhaps, have picked up the responsibility that goes with that. I’m sure he’s aware of that now.

“The important thing is we’ve not viewed him differently because we’ve picked him and he’s in the mix with all of those other good players we’ve talked about to try to get in the team. So, it’s on to the football.”

The surprise 2-1 defeat in Prague scuppered hopes of sealing early qualification for Euro 2020 but victory over Montenegro at Wembley on Thursday in what will be England’s 1,000th international would put that right.

Southgate said the racist incidents that marred the 6-0 win over Bulgaria had overshadowed an impressive attacking display – albeit against poor opponents – but he believes there is still plenty of room to improve despite an impressive qualifying record with 26 goals in six matches.

“We didn’t create a huge amount of chances in Prague but goals per game, we’re the top scorers in Europe,” he said. “There are only Belgium and Russia who’ve scored more and they’ve both played two games more than us. So that area of the field doesn’t concern me. I know there is this thirst for this creative player but we’ve scored more than anybody else.

“It’s fair to say we’re still seeking that pivot who can do all sides of the game. If any of you see him by all means throw your hat at him.

“There are areas of the pitch that we need to progress but our attacking play and the patterns … the game in Bulgaria was a great example of what we are capable of doing to teams with the movement, with the speed with the quality on the ball that we have in those areas of the pitch.”


Gareth Southgate says Bulgaria racism brought England team closer together – video
source: theguardian.com

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