Declan Rice being given time and space by Gareth Southgate

Sun, Dec 02 2018

Declan Rice in action for the Ireland u21 team Credit: Laszlo Geczo

Macdara Ferris reports from the Convention Centre Dublin

With Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy set to meet Declan Rice in the near future, Gareth Southgate is giving the player some space to make what the England manager called a “difficult decision.”

The England boss was speaking about the West Ham player at the Convention Centre in Dublin after the EURO 2020 draw. Rice is being courted by both England and the Boys in Green for their international teams.

“He is a very good player,” said Southgate.

“At the moment I have certainly allowed him time to make a decision and that is an important and difficult decision for him. It is only right that he has the time and space to do that.”

England, who were top seeds were drawn in a EURO 2020 qualification group that has some potential pitfalls but should be one that they can progress from.

They will play against Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo but Southgate noted that he has seen England side's drop points in these fixtures previously.

“When you look at the potential teams that were in the second and third pots, I think there are teams we are probably happy to have avoided.

“These matches are ones where we are favourites and top seeds and we have to expect and live with that pressure but all of those games are ones that you could drop points in. 

“I’ve been involved in games where we have dropped points when I was on the bench against Montenegro and I know we have dropped points in Montenegro before. 

“I’ve been to Bulgaria when there was a draw and so we won’t take any of those opponents for granted. We have to live with the expectation that comes with being favourites.

“We have had a really exciting calendar year and the next 18 months is even more exciting. That is great as you want to be in a team that is pushing for things and is progressing." 

Having made it to the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia earlier in the year and topped their UEFA Nations League group that contained Spain and Croatia, England are in an excellent position going into these qualifiers.

“We saw last summer that we were able to get to a semi-final and we are in another semi-final next summer [in the UEFA Nations League]. 

"We have some boys who have won at youth level on the world stage to push that group from underneath. We all are excited about that. 

“The competition for places is key as you can’t have any complacency. Players are tested and pushing each other on to impress. There isn’t a day that goes by when you can coast.

In the tournament next year, Wembley will host three group games, one last 16 as well as both semi-finals and the tournament final itself. 

“If there is any added incentive, it is to play those matches at Wembley. That is additional motivation.”