Why isn’t Ben White in the England squad? Gareth Southgate explains omission | Football

Ben White was not included in England’s squad (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

England boss Gareth Southgate said Ben White was omitted from his Three Lions squad for upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium because he made himself unavailable for selection.

White has been in fine form for Arsenal this term, and provided two assists for Arsenal in Saturday’s 2-1 win against Brentford last Saturday.

The defender’s ability to play at both centre-back and right-back is a major bonus going into a tournament when managers need tactical flexibility.

White was selected for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but left the squad before the last-16 clash against Senegal for ‘personal reasons’.

That has been the cause of much speculation, with rumours swirling around that White had fallen out with members of England’s backroom staff.

But Southgate denies that, and says White would have been selected for the spring internationals had he not made himself unavailable.

Ben White playing for Arsenal

White has been in fine form for Arsenal. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Asked if White is available for selection, Southgate replied: ‘Look, it’s absolutely the question you should ask because clearly on form I can’t sit here and say he doesn’t deserve to be in.

‘We, [FA technical director] John McDermott, had a call from [Arsenal sporting director] Edu last week to say that Ben did not want to be considered for the England squad at this time.

‘For me that’s a great shame. He’s a player that I really like. He’s a player that we took to a Euros when he was at Brighton, a player that we took to the World Cup.

‘I spoke to him post-Qatar because I was keen to pick him and there was clearly reticence from his side.

‘I don’t know fully why that is, but I have to respect that.

Despite the setback, Southgate says White is still in his plans and he will consider picking him again in the future.

‘I want to leave the door open for him because he’s a good player and I think he’s a player that could make a difference for England,’ said Southgate.

‘But he’s not available to us and so the only other thing I would say is, there is no issue between us at all.’

‘And also should say there was never any issue with Steve Holland, because that has been sort of mentioned in articles and I don’t like that.

‘People can talk about me and I have to accept that things get said and are false about me, and for whatever reason in this role you have to almost stomach that, but I’m not prepared for that to happen to a key member of my coaching team because that is not the reason that Ben is unavailable for selection.’

Ben White playing for England

White hasn’t featured for England since Qatar(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, Southgate admits it’s disappointing not to have a player like White available for selection.

‘Well, I have to respect it. He’s not the first player that, at certain times, hasn’t wanted to be available for selection,’ added Southgate.

‘So I’ve always tried to protect those players, because I always want the door to be left open. Even though on lots of those occasions I’m the one that gets it in the neck for not picking them and people don’t know the reasons.

‘But sometimes as a leader you have to take the flak for others and allow them time to come through and sometimes we’ve had young players who haven’t felt comfortable coming away with England, when I was with the Under-21s, and then as they get older they get more comfortable with it. So there can be all sorts of reasons for that.

‘As I said, I think we should respect that. I repeat, he’s clearly playing very well and has been for a long time. But he’s not available to me.’

‘Clearly to come in for June [and the Euros] would be difficult because others will have been in the squad and playing regularly, so whenever you have a situation like that you’ve always got to assess those who have been on the journey all the way through. We’ve done that over the years with various different situations.’

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