Southgate: Players must show 'desire' to represent England
Manager says it's not his job to convince stars to represent their country – is this a dig at Wilfried Zaha?
England boss Gareth Southgate has rejected the idea that he needs to convince players to represent England.
Speaking about the case of Wilfried Zaha, who turned his back on England to play for Ivory Coast, Southgate said he did not realise there was an "egg-timer" running on the player's selection.
Zaha represented England in two friendlies before falling out of favour when his career stalled at Manchester United. He is now back to his best at Crystal Palace but last year accepted an offer to play for the country of his birth after being overlooked by Southgate.
The England boss made no apologies for not selecting Zaha and said he had picked his squads on merit. He also revealed that he had spoken to Zaha after becoming England manager.
But Southgate made it clear that players should have an "inherent desire" to represent their country. "If you don't feel that internal 100 per cent passion for England, then I'm not sure it's for me to sell that to you... Although I'm always willing to sit down with players, it should be them coming to us.
"You run the risk, when you leave players out, of them going across to another country. But in the end I have to focus on players who are desperate to play for England."
His comments are described as a "stunning attack" on Crystal Palace star Zaha by The Sun, but also appear directed at Palace chairman Steve Parish. He criticised the FA for not doing more to secure Zaha's loyalty after he scored a goal for Ivory Coast against Russia last week.
Southgate said that Parish's comments on social media were not "helpful".
"The Zaha situation opens up a wider debate on player eligibility," says the Daily Telegraph, which notes that Southgate's attitude "would appear to run contrary" to that of his predecessor Sam Allardyce and the FA, which has a department dedicated to seeking out eligible players.
Southgate "seems less keen on the idea" of selling England to players, says TheGuardian. "Allardyce had explored the possibilities of calling up Steven N'Zonzi, citing the player's six-year spell in English football with Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City, until Fifa blocked the move on the grounds the player had won a France Under-21 cap," says the paper.