Gareth Southgate has confirmed that Mason Mount and Luke Shaw remain doubts for England’s World Cup qualifier against Albania, but Jack Grealish is back in training and is set to be available for the clash at Wembley Stadium on Friday.
It will be the Three Lions’ final home game of the year and a win will see them move within one point of qualifying for Qatar 2022 from Group I, assuming second-placed Poland do not fail to win in Andorra.
The England manager has already lost Marcus Rashford, James Ward-Prowse and Declan Rice to injury from his initial squad, with Emile Smith Rowe the only replacement called up.
Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, when asked about the availability of Mount (dental) and Shaw (concussion), Southgate said “I’ve got to check in with our medical staff for our update. The longer it goes, the more unlikely it is.
“Mason has to recover from his dental surgery. Luke didn’t pass his [head injury assessment] after the first day and rightly, we have to follow the guidelines with that.
“Jack Grealish has trained and is ready if required.”
Southgate was asked how Arsenal youngster Smith Rowe has settled into the squad after his first senior call-up.
“He has settled really well,” he added. “He obviously knows a couple of his club teammates and Phil [Foden] from the U17s. This is a group that makes new players very welcome so it’s not a difficult environment to settle in and his quality has been apparent from the way he has trained.
“We have always worked on the basis that we need a strong squad because you will get injuries. We have depth and we have players who have been waiting for opportunities to play.”
England captain Harry Kane was also present at the media conference and emphasised the need for he and his team-mates to brush off the disappointment of their 1-1 draw at Wembley in their previous qualifier against Hungary.
Kane said “Whenever you have a disappointing game, or you don’t reach the standards you normally reach, it kind of wakes you up a little bit and makes you realise there’s still work to do, still more to improve on.
“Three points from that game would have really helped towards securing qualification, so now it’s about turning it round and responding to that game. We’ve had a great week of preparation but it’s all about performing when the pressure’s on and the team have done that before.”
Kane was also asked about his own start to the season, having scored only once in his first 10 Premier League games for Tottenham. He was heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the last transfer window, but denied that it has had an influence on his performances.
“Losing a European final for your country at Wembley will probably stay with me the rest of my career. You never really get over those things, unless we go and win a major tournament. That always stings but I’m pretty used to getting back into things,” Kane said.
“There was a lot of speculation over the summer, that’s the first real time that’s happened to me. But that’s part and parcel of being a big player, having to deal with those situations, and I think I dealt with it well. Now it’s about focusing. There’s still a long way to go at club level and we’ve got these two games to finish off what’s been a great calendar year [for England].”