Gareth Southgate insists he is keeping an open mind about staying with England beyond Euro 2024 this summer.
The 53-year-old is under contract until December and accepts it is possible he may not even be in charge by the time England play Nations League matches against the Republic of Ireland, Greece and Finland in the autumn.
However, he insists his decision is not yet made either way and remains open to the possibility of staying on and working with England’s exciting crop of players, led by Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham.
— England (@England) February 8, 2024
“There’s a fair chance half the coaches won’t be here after the Euros. That’s international football,” he said at the draw in Paris.
“You’ve got to see how the summer goes. It’s as simple as that. In my view, I know what we’re capable of achieving in the summer, I know what my own benchmark of success would be, after that I’m not really thinking about anything else.
“Without a doubt it’s exciting to take the team, it’s always been exciting to take the team, whatever the strengths of the squad. In the end, we’ve got to deliver a performance and you’ve got to make the best decisions for everybody. I won’t be in a position to make that decision before the tournament.”
While Bellingham’s place in the squad appears certain barring injury, others seem to have a much bigger fight on their hands.
Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has hit the headlines recently after an unsanctioned trip to Belfast and Southgate insists all his players are being monitored on and off the field.
“We’re five weeks away from picking a squad, although so much happens to players over the period between November and March that we’re always sitting and observing everything on and off the pitch.”
The last competitive encounter between England and the Republic was a Euro 92 qualifier at Wembley, where a Niall Quinn goal cancelled out Lee Dixon’s opener.
A friendly match in 1995 at Lansdowne Road had to be abandoned due to crowd trouble and the teams’ most recent meeting was a November 2020 friendly.
England midfielder Declan Rice played three senior matches for the Republic before switching allegiance to England, while Manchester City star Jack Grealish also played for the Republic at under-age level.
Southgate said: “I have to say that I don’t know where we would have been without them. If we hadn’t had Declan over the past four years then I don’t know what we would have done.”
Football Association of Ireland director of football Marc Canham said of the draw: “It’s tough, but exciting, some amazing games and obviously we’re playing England for the first time in a while.
“It’s a great opportunity for our players and team and our amazing fans, an experience they can really look forward to.”
CYNGHRAIR Y CENHEDLOEDD
— Wales (@Cymru) February 8, 2024
Wales will be up against Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey in Group B4.
Wales boss Rob Page said: “We know what Turkey are about (having played them in the Euro qualifiers last year). There are no easy games in international football but, with regards to the opposition, if we could have handpicked them we probably would have picked them.
“That’s no disrespect to them, but we want to give ourselves the best opportunity.”
Steve Clarke’s Scotland are up against Croatia, Portugal and Poland in Group A1.
We have been drawn in Group A1 in today's Nations League draw.
Croatia Portugal Poland Scotland pic.twitter.com/3aRPpXzbnZ
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) February 8, 2024
Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland were drawn in Group C3, where they will take on Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus.
O’Neill said: “I think they will be good games for the young squad that we have at the minute. It will be a test for them as part of their development as international players.”
The league phase will be played between September and October before League A quarter-finals and promotion/relegation play-offs take place in March 2025.
Single-leg semis and a final will be played in June 2025.