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Gordon & Longstaff’s Euro 2024 hopes slip away as England duo grab chance amid rule change

Gareth Southgate’s continued refusal to experiment with in-form Newcastle United players continued over the international break, much to the dismay of some and the relief of others. At a time when the injuries are mounting on Tyneside, maybe it was better that only Kieran Trippier ended up pulling on a Three Lions jersey for the underwhelming win over Malta on Friday.

Callum Wilson withdrew from the squad due to injury, Nick Pope continues to be shunned, while Anthony Gordon and Sean Longstaff simply cannot force their way into Southgate’s plans. Now, time is running out for the unlucky stars to make their mark before the 2024 European Championships in Germany.

With the final, meaningless qualifiers out the way, there is now a four-month reprieve from international football. The only squad Southgate will name before the Euros is for back-to-back Wembley friendlies with Brazil and Belgium.

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With the start of 2024 available for the likes of Gordon and Longstaff to impress Southgate before the summer showpiece, a number of new stars have been given the nod – and taken their chance at the first time of asking. Manchester City’s Rico Lewis picked up the Man of the Match award on his debut against Macedonia on Monday, while Chelsea’s Cole Palmer featured off the bench in both recent England outings.

“There are lots of players to keep track of, because in this batch of games, Trent [Alexander-Arnold] has again done an excellent job in midfield, has used the ball really well and has done really well,” Southgate said after the 1-1 draw with North Macedonia. “With Rico coming in, Cole Palmer coming in, there is lots for me to think about.

“He [Lewis] was excellent, his composure with the ball, the fact that he did respond as he did to the setback which was really, really harsh. He is a super footballer and he was excellent, I thought. We are really pleased with him.”

Another negative counting against Newcastle’s England hopefuls is the fact Southgate will only be able to choose a 23-man squad for the Euros, having been able to pick 26 players for both Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup. This means the competition for places becomes even fiercer.

Factor in the reality that Reece James, Mason Mount, Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Levi Colwill, James Ward-Prowse and even Newcastle’s own Wilson, who have all featured for England recently, aren’t even assured of their places on the plane, it makes Gordon and Longstaff’s task even stiffer.

“It makes it a different sort of thought process because you’ve had that leeway in the last couple of tournaments to take players that weren’t going to be fit for the first couple of games, or a bit of cover in a couple of positions that you might or might not have needed,” Southgate said on Monday when asked about his 23-man plan. “This time, the physical condition of the players is going to be really important, the ability of players to bat out six or seven games.”

Gordon, thankfully, has time on his side and England youth experience to stand him in good stead for the future. Longstaff, however, faces an even tougher task given the level of quality already available in the middle of the park and his relative lack of experience on the international stage.

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