Gareth Southgate can offer no guarantees over whether Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson will play a part for England at the European Championship – but has explained why it was a no-brainer to take them both.
Manchester United captain Maguire missed the last few games of the season, including last week’s Europa League final, with ankle ligament damage, while Liverpool captain Henderson has not played since February after groin surgery.
Despite their fitness doubts, Southgate opted to name the pair in his 26-man squad for the tournament, which kicks off on June 11.
Southgate is not pinning his hopes on the duo being able to play but maintains UEFA’s decision to expand squad sizes from 23 to 26 made his decision to include them quite simple.
When asked if he felt it was a risk to take any of the injured players, Southgate told talkSPORT: “No, because normally we’d only have 23 and we’ve got three additional players.
“We’re realistic about what might be possible for those guys, we’re not picking them with anything in mind other than it will be a bonus if we get them for the games we think we might.
“Therefore, we’re covered in those positions and balanced the squad out in case we don’t have them.
“Their leadership, influence and possibility we can have them with us we feel was a big factor for the group.
“We’ve got a lot of young players, so to have two experienced players, two captains of their club, was a very important thing for us.”
Henderson may get a run-out against Austria on Wednesday, with Maguire the biggest concern as he was seen on crutches just two weeks ago.
When asked about the central defender’s condition, Southgate said: “We’ve got the full picture, we know where he’s up to. He’s not been able to travel to us yet because of the quarantine with the European final in Poland.
“He should be with us tomorrow [Wednesday], along with the other Manchester United players, then we’re able to work around the clock with him to try to get him to the best level possible.”
Asked further about Maguire and Henderson’s chances, Southgate – who is also considering giving Trent Alexander-Arnold a chance to play in midfield during the upcoming warm-up games – said: “Both of the players are not where you would want them to be in terms of being available for the game against Croatia.
“We are realistic about that but they are outstanding players. But when you are talking about Maguire who hardly ever misses a game and Hendo, who has made a living out of making the impossible seem possible, then maybe they can get there.
“It is not like repairing a machine – it is a human body and you can have little setbacks for any number of different reasons. Our aim is to progress them the best that we can.
“The most important thing is that we don’t push them beyond the point they are ready for – that would be stupid, negligent.
“But if we can get them to the point where they can contribute to the team, that would be fantastic for us because we know what outstanding players they are and outstanding characters.”
There are also smaller worries over Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford but Southgate offered a positive.
“Jack has trained with the team, he hasn’t been able to train every day – we have to manage his load,” he added.
“We want to get the players to the best possible point but we don’t want to break them in the process.
“Marcus we haven’t seen on the grass but I have spoken with him and he assures me he is happy with where he is at. We go from there with that one.”
talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 will have live commentary of EVERY game of Euro 2020. You won’t miss a thing as we bring you round the clock coverage, reaction and analysis from June 11-July 11. Listen online HERE.
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