Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Neville: Right-back missing World Cup would be a huge blow to England

Gary Neville has described England’s string of injury setbacks at right-back as a “stunning” situation.

Reece James walked off with a knee problem in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at AC Milan on Tuesday and the extent of the damage is under investigation.

That follows Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who suffered an ankle problem on Sunday, and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, who underwent groin surgery last week.

The World Cup in Qatar begins on November 20 and while Neville is hoping for recoveries, he says it would be “a massive problem” for boss Gareth Southgate unless at least two of the trios are available.

The former England and Manchester United right-back with 85 caps told the PA news agency: “You go from a few weeks ago, it’s probably the strongest department and you think one of those really talented right-backs could be left out. We are in trouble in this position. It’s really upsetting what happened.

“We just have to hope they get fit. Trent came out Sunday, Kyle injured, Reece James injured (Tuesday) night. Kieran Trippier himself has had injury problems.

“Honestly I don’t think I would have played many games for England if there had been those four in my day, if any, because they are absolutely outstanding.

“I just think it would be a real shame if we didn’t see Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker – especially those three. We know Kieran Trippier is a good player but these three have outstanding aspects and it would be a huge blow for them not to play in a tournament.

“So I’m hoping we can get at least two of those three fit again because it would be a huge problem if they weren’t. I think one or two of them will be fit.”

Another England defender to pick up an injury is United captain Harry Maguire, who missed a penalty in last month’s 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley, losing the ball early in an action that ended with a another goal ended.

Neville expects the centre-back to make up the squad for Qatar when he is fit but said: “I think there comes a point where you have to say he’s not in good form (to start).

“His credits were there to keep his place in the team in Nations League games but I think the fact of the performance against Germany…if he’s injured he won’t leave but even if he does, how integrated you really? bring him into the team in the form he was after not playing for two or three months? I think it would be very risky for Gareth to do that.”

Overall, despite the result against Germany in their last game before the World Cup extending England’s winless streak to six games, Neville is optimistic about how Southgate’s men could fare in Qatar after runs into the last four of the 2018 tournament and the Euro 2020 final.

“I don’t have any major concerns because I really think these players have delivered in the last two tournaments when it comes time for the real games,” he said.

“I know it might prove to be something naïve if England don’t do well, people will say the warning signs were there. But today I don’t feel that way. I think the players bond well with each other and when the right games come along, they’ll turn it on.

“I would be optimistic – after the last two tournaments, why wouldn’t we do that?”

Ten days before the start of the World Cup, Neville will join Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane in a second Overlap Live show at the Ovo Arena Wembley.

The live shows follow the success of Neville’s The Overlap YouTube channel, which launched in April 2021, and he said: “It’s become one of the biggest parts of my life. We had fantastic people and I absolutely love it.

“The live has always been something I’ve wanted to do with it, we did that in Manchester last year and then thought we’d go to London this year before the World Cup. We are really excited about it.”

The Overlap Live – starring Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane – arrives at the Ovo Arena Wembley on Thursday 10 November for its biggest live show to date. Tickets and more information are available at www.cuffeandtaylor.com

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