The Football Association will back Gareth Southgate against any Premier League manager, including Arsène Wenger, who tries to block him from calling up senior international players for his Under-21s European Championship squad next summer.
Southgate will be permitted by Roy Hodgson and the FA to select the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers and Ross Barkley for next summer’s European Championship, regardless of protests from club managers.
Wenger said that he did not want any of his Arsenal first-team squad to be included for the two-week tournament at the end of June in the Czech Republic.
However, it is understood that the only two players eligible for the Under-21s that Hodgson and the FA consider off-limits are Raheem Sterling and Jack Wilshere, both currently regulars for the senior England team.
That opens the way for the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain to be selected and Arsenal’s attacking midfielder was the first of those players who have significant senior team experience to say that he would be prepared to drop down to the Under-21s.
Chamberlain, 21, who has eight Under-21s caps, the last of which was won in February 2012, said: “You’d never turn your nose up at something like that [the European Championship], but there’s a lot that goes into that [decision] because the national team have two games around the same time as the tournament. So it’s up to Roy Hodgson to decide.
“There are a lot of players in the England squad that could drop back down and play for the Under-21s.
“I don’t know the dates. When that time comes around I’ll have to think about it. Gareth might not even want me. It’s a discussion that will be had closer to the time with the England manager, someone at Arsenal and Gareth.
“It’s a good thing that people aren’t being held back to play in the senior side if the manager thinks they’re ready. At the same time I do think we take our Under-21s seriously.”
Manchester United defenders Phil Jones and Luke Shaw, and Everton’s John Stones are all also eligible under the Uefa rules which stipulate that players born on or after 1 January 1992 can play in the tournament. While Southgate does not want to damage the spirit of the group of players who qualified for the tournament with home and away wins in their play-off against Croatia, he is understood to feel this is a good chance for England to win their first Under-21s tournament since 1994.
“My thinking about that is once a guy has moved up to the full national team and you put him down [to the Under-21s] he is never good,” Wenger said. “Apart from the fact on the selfish front for us, when the guy has played 50 games it is better he has a good rest during the summer. But most of the time, when they move down, they are not completely at their quality.”
In order that the players would be able to take part in the build up to the Under-21s tournament, Hodgson would have to omit them from his senior squad to face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on 7 June and the Euro 2016 qualifier away to Slovenia a week later.
The Under-21s tournament begins on 17 June and is played across four venues in the Czech Republic. There are three group games before the semi-finals. The FA feels that it is the ideal short tournament to give English players the chance to win something. Spain and France failed to qualify.Reuse content