England manager Gareth Southgate plans to name his 23-man World Cup squad early to help strip unnecessary anxiety and pressure from preparations.
Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Italy was the Three Lions’ last match before Southgate names the travelling party heading to this summer’s finals in Russia.
Southgate has until May 14 to give England’s 35-man provisional squad to FIFA and needs to whittle it down to 23 by June 4 – two days after England’s next friendly against Nigeria.
But in a bid to have roles clearly defined in preparation for the finals, Southgate will name his squad before the penultimate warm-up friendly and the announcement is expected shortly after the Premier League season.
“I’d like to (name the squad before the next friendly) because you end up being able to run a performance camp rather than a selection camp,” the England manager said.
“I think there’s a difference in the feel for everybody.
“If you name 28 and they aren’t sure, but if you name 23 and five on standby – which Sven (Goran Eriksson) did well – then everyone knows where they sit.
“Those on standby have a chance but they come into the camp knowing that’s their role.
“If you have got 28 or 30 who think they might have a chance, then there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety within the games.
“For me, it’s much better to get the 23 secured and work from there.”
But as a veteran of major tournaments as a player – including seeing Paul Gascoigne’s heartbreak up close in 1998 – the England boss knows better than most the sensitives surrounding selection.
“It’s very important,” he said. “But I think already across this week, guys would have a pretty good idea of where they sit. It’s about managing expectations, I suppose.
“There are some who obviously know that they have worked with us for quite a while and the reality is they are going to be part of the squad.
“There are others that know – after the conversations I’ve had with them – that they are just on the edge of it.
“But I think that’s important because then it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to anybody.
“I’ve got to keep those conversations going over the next few weeks to keep letting people know how I see it, so that in the end it doesn’t come as dramatically to people.
“But as a manager you have got to have difficult conversations all the time. It’s delivering that as respectfully as possible, but it’s never enjoyable for either person.”
Southgate already has a “pretty clear” idea about how he will fill 20 of the slots, just as he knows what he wants to do when it comes to number one and skipper.
The England manager knows who he would want his goalkeeper to be if they played tomorrow and promised to commit to that player in Russia, with Jordan Pickford perhaps having edged ahead of Jack Butland.
Joe Hart’s leadership qualities means he still looks set to be on the plane to Russia, while Harry Kane or Jordan Henderson are frontrunners for the captaincy.
“I’ll probably do that when I name the squad for the finals,” he said. “But, again, I know what I’m doing, so, it’s not a case of me sitting at home fretting about it.”