London, United Kingdom, Aug 25 – England manager Gareth Southgate says a conversation with Harry Maguire convinced him to name the Manchester United captain in the squad for Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark despite his arrest on assault charges.
Maguire was arrested last week after a fight with another group at a nightclub on the Greek island of Mykonos and spent two nights in custody.
The 27-year-old defender, who has 26 England caps, has flown back home but his trial went ahead in his absence on Tuesday.
He denies the charges and Southgate has opted to stand by the centre-back.
Southgate is convinced he has made the right decision after speaking to Maguire, who became the world’s most expensive defender following his £80 million ($105 million) move from Leicester to United last year.
“It is clearly a decision that is not straightforward,” Southgate told a press conference on Tuesday.
“I have spoken with Harry. I have the insight to the story which is very different to what is being recorded. You can only make decisions on facts you are aware of.
“If facts or information change I will have to review that decision, but I have a fantastic relationship with the boy — he has been a fantastic character for us. He has my support at this moment.”
Southgate has previously shown his willingness to get tough with misbehaving players, dropping Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling after he clashed with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez in a training ground dispute.
– Maguire apology –
“You always make decisions to the best of your ability given the information you have,” said the England boss. “People may agree or disagree with those decisions, but it is a position where every manger finds himself.
“Harry regrets the fact he has brought that sort of focus and attention to the team. He apologised for that but also has his own side of the story.”
England have not played since November 2019, when a 4-0 win in Kosovo concluded their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
Southgate’s side face Iceland in Reykjavik on September 5 before playing Denmark in Copenhagen on September 8.
Maguire’s off-field issues overshadowed first call-ups for talented youngsters Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood and Kalvin Phillips.
Foden, 20, has emerged as a future star in Manchester City’s midfield, while the goals of 18-year-old striker Greenwood were key to Manchester United qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
“It’s a step up for them but they are both more than capable. They have shown playing in big matches for big clubs that they are talented boys,” Southgate said.
“They are both hugely exciting players who can be part of England’s future. It is up to them to take it forward.
“It is now the right time a year away from the European Championships. Let’s see if they can start to break into that team and that squad.”
Phillips’ mature displays in midfield helped Leeds win promotion from the Championship last season.
“He is a player we have watched a lot in the last 12 months with Leeds. The position he plays is one where we need competition for places. It’s an exciting moment for him,” Southgate said.
There was also a place in the squad for Southampton striker Danny Ings, who enjoyed a prolific campaign with 25 goals in all competitions and made his only previous England appearance in 2015.
Southgate picked players from Manchester City and Manchester United including Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Kyle Walker, even though their European campaigns only ended this month.