England manager Gareth Southgate says he is conscious not to heap too much responsibility on Mason Greenwood and is prepared to let him develop at his own pace, after leaving him out of the squad for World Cup qualifiers despite admitting he deserved a place.
It was expected that the Manchester United striker would be included after two goals in his opening two Premier League games of the season, but he was overlooked in favour of a first call up for Leeds forward Patrick Bamford.
Greenwood was in the preliminary Euro 2020 squad, but he pulled out through injury. He turns 20 this month, but as he becomes an increasingly central figure in United’s plans, Southgate believes he will be worth waiting for.
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“He is in our thoughts, very much,” he told a media conference.
“I’ve spoken with him and with his club. He’s a player we really like and we think he’s going to be...he’s got every possibility to be a top England player.
We’re all very conscious that we make that progression at the right time, he is just breaking into the team at Manchester United with a lot of responsibility, that’s a big thing for a young player to deal with and we want to get that progression with our seniors as well as we possibly can so that we get the best possible player at the end.
“We’re all aligned on that - Mason, the club, his family, us, and we feel at the moment the best thing for him after these first few games is that he stays with his club.
“But he’s very much a player we like. It’s clear on his performances at the moment he would warrant being in the squad, absolutely.”
Southgate says it is a “special moment” for Bamford to be included, having been close to selection at the end of last season.
It is the first squad the England boss has named since defeat on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and Southgate says his players - including Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who missed those spot kicks - are ready to put the disappointment behind them.
"I was in touch with all three of them the days after the final and their clubs were in touch as well,” he said.
"They know there is support if they need it, but they are also keen to move on. It is a fresh season with fresh challenges. They are exciting young players with an exciting time ahead of them."
Meanwhile, reports have gone cold on a new contract for Southgate, after Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said in June that the governing body is keen to sort out a new contract for a manager who has taken the team to at least the semi-finals of the last two major tournaments.
But Southgate says that is simply down to both men being away at different times, and he has no concerns.
He added: “I’ve got to focus on what’s the priority, that’s getting the team qualified for Qatar.
“I’m sure at some point over the next few weeks -I’m due meetings with Mark anyway - I’m sure we’ll have discussions, but the autumn for me is about getting the team to Qatar, everything else can wait.
“It’s not important, I’m contracted to Qatar anyway, so anything we’re discussing is about time beyond that, it’s not relevant for this period.”
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