Former England defender Glen Johnson has questioned Gareth Southgate’s wisdom in sticking with Harry Maguire on the eve of a World Cup.
The Manchester United captain, who has been under intense scrutiny for 18 months, is not playing regularly for his club as new manager Erik ten Tag prefers the centre-back partnership of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
Maguire’s team-mate Luke Shaw is also in the England squad despite only two Premier League starts, one of which saw him go off at half-time with the side 4-0 down to Brentford.
Southgate also called up Kalvin Phillips, who had managed just 14 minutes of football since joining Manchester City in the summer before retiring with a recurrence of a shoulder injury.
Johnson said while loyalty goes a long way, picking those who don’t play regularly can have significant downsides in tournament football.
“Of course I’m okay with some loyalty, but for that you have to know who’s fit, who’s fit, who’s playing week in and week out, and then putting the whole equation together,” he said. he told the PA news agency. during an LFC Foundation-SC Johnson Goals for Change partnership event at Anfield.
“I don’t think you can choose a player entirely on loyalty. The fitness of matches is huge, certainly in these tournaments because you don’t have time to warm up.
“You have to get going and you can’t do that if you’re not fit and playing for your club every week.
“Training these days doesn’t keep you at that level because you’re just preparing for games, so I think the players playing have to be the priority.”
England’s last two tournaments have seen them reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of Euro 2020.
Johnson believes they will have a good chance again if Southgate can play a more adventurous game.
“Some players aren’t quite at their peak at the moment but it doesn’t matter now, you’d much rather they were at their peak in four or five weeks, but I think there’s has some question marks,” he added.
“But going forward I can’t think of a team that has the attacking players that we have, so as long as we use that rather than trying to be a bit defensive – you might as well live and die by the sword and play with what you have.
“We probably have eight attacking players that you could say should start.”