Paul Merson says playing Jordan Pickford in friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast will do nothing for Gareth Southgate and England’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Pickford remains England’s No.1 goalkeeper heading into the first international break of the calendar year after arch-rival Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale was forced out of last-team Southgate in due to a hip injury.
While substitute goalkeepers Nick Pope and Sam Johnstone have won just 10 England caps between them, Pickford, capped 42 times, is set to feature in Wembley’s double game.
But Merson is adamant he shouldn’t, citing the Pickford club’s struggles with relegation-threatened Everton, who he believes could jeopardize the 28-year-old’s place on the plane to Qatar 2022 and could leave Southgate needing more experience in reserve.
« It’s a shame Aaron Ramsdale is injured, I thought he would have had the opportunity to prove himself in those friendlies, but the injury paid for that, » Merson said. Sky sports.
« When it comes to England’s goalkeeper for the World Cup, a lot depends on what happens by the end of the season. If Everton are going to be relegated, it will be difficult for Jordan Pickford to maintain his position as England’s No. 1.
“How many Championship players have played at a World Cup for England? One only has to look at Kalvin Phillips, who entered the England squad straight after Leeds were promoted, to see how difficult it is for Championship players to break into the England squad. »
Merson continued: « I thought Ramsdale would have played in those games because you don’t want a situation where the World Cup is coming and Gareth may have to turn to a goalkeeper who only has one single selection.
“You can play in the Premier League but international football in a different game, a game where you may have nothing to do for long periods of time but where you have to deliver in crucial moments.
« I don’t see any point in Pickford playing in any of these games. You don’t want a situation like the one that happened with Scott Carson to happen again.
“Carson was a good goalkeeper, but he came into that huge Euro 2008 qualifier with no real experience. It cost England a place in a tournament, and it wasn’t fair to the player.
“You need backup goalkeepers who have caps, and these friendlies give Southgate the opportunity to do that. »
“Southgate is looking at its options now”
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were the two high profile omissions from Southgate’s last England, a move Merson only half agreed with given Sancho’s encouraging recent form for Manchester United.
But Merson believes the decision will act as a catalyst for both players, who may have taken their selection for granted, and has no doubt they will both be in the picture when the World Cup squad is announced.
« I was quite shocked that Southgate didn’t choose Jadon Sancho, » he added. « I’ve seen him play much worse and still be included in the England squad, much worse.
“You hope it will serve as a kick to the players who perhaps thought their place in England was guaranteed, whatever their club form. Gareth might say he wants to watch someone else and point out that Sancho might not be a shoo-in.
“Every English player will want to be in the team in September or October, now it doesn’t make much difference. If you’re going to have a dip in form, it’s wise to have it now, not a month before the World Cup. and you end up missing the trip to Qatar, it’s going to be a real kick in the teeth.
“Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford will be there when Southgate comes to pick their squad for the World Cup, 100 per cent. »
Merson thinks Southgate could have a good idea of their slated World Cup squad as early as this summer, adding: “The World Cup will come and before we know it it will be next season and the tournament will be right around the corner.
“Southgate is looking at his options now and believes that by June, barring a few positions, he will know what his World Cup squad is. He won’t wait until next season to start and make last-minute decisions. »
First deserved call-ups in England
While the week leading up to the international break was dominated by those who didn’t make the Southgate squad, match week focused on those who did, namely the first senior call-ups for Crystal Palace duo Marc Guehi and Tyrick Mitchell, and Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters. .
“Gareth is good enough as it is; he chooses players who are doing well,” added Merson.
« I’m really delighted to see the two Palace lads, Guehi and Mitchell, and the Southampton lad, Walker-Peters, being called up. They fully deserve it.
“Promising full-backs probably thought they would never play for England, such was the competition in those positions where we are blessed, especially at right-back. But it’s funny how things work in football. »