BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
England boss Gareth Southgate has told the South London Press that handing the Crystal Palace pair of Marc Guehi and Tyrick Mitchell their senior England debuts on Saturday against Switzerland still excites him.
Centre-back Guehi started in the 2-1 win at Wembley on Saturday evening while left-back Mitchell replaced Luke Shaw in the 61st minute.
“The thrill of giving them their legacy cap is very special,” said the former Eagles captain. “[In this job] you have to make lots of difficult phone calls and have difficult conversations, but to be able to give people their debut and see how much it means, to their family and everybody that worked on that journey, you’ll never lose the excitement of that and that’s the beauty of football.
“There’s plenty that’s hard work and not so enjoyable, but it’s lovely to see those moments and that’s something they should always refer back to. The game can change in their mind as their journey goes on and they get a little bit more successful. It’s nice to anchor them back to those moments that are truly why they started.”
Alongside club-mate Conor Gallagher, who was handed his second cap, Mitchell and Guehi became the first trio of Palace players to represent England since June 1991 when Ian Wright, Geoff Thomas and John Salako took to the field against New Zealand in Wellington.
But for Mitchell, it was extra special with the game being his first-ever international call-up at any level – unlike Guehi, who has represented England at every level since the U16s.
“It’s a brilliant story, for Tyrick especially,” said Southgate to the South London Press about the two very different journeys to his time from Mitchell and Guehi. “[Tyrick] was at Brentford and then they disbanded their academy – that is a very different path.
Proud.#CPFC | @England pic.twitter.com/ZDCVLmemhp
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) March 26, 2022
“It’s always been the way when we talk to parents or academy managers, we try and plot the best possible pathway for players and, generally speaking, you’d like them in academies at a young age so technically they can improve and they can learn the discipline of the game.
“But you get late developers like Jamie Vardy, Tyrone Mings, that come through. [Harry] Maguire didn’t really get many international junior camps, Kalvin Phillips’ the same.
“There’s no defined way and that’s the beauty of it. We try to map that, get the academy structure in the best possible sense, but it’s not possible to predict as precisely as that.
“We’re looking at League One and League Two games today, with lots of players that were playing international junior level. That’s a good reminder for youngsters in our junior teams now. There’s still a long way to go to even have a career in the game at the top level, never mind play out here.
“That’s why it’s so special these boys have got their legacy caps – it’s an incredibly proud moment for them.”
Southgate also singled out Guehi’s and Gallagher’s performances.
“Marc did exactly what I’ve seen,” said the former Palace captain. “I’ve watched him play for Crystal Palace and sometimes he can go under the radar because he’s rarely out of position and he’s so calm. You don’t see lunging tackles. You don’t see, perhaps, eye-catching moments. He played with that discipline and assuredness. He was excellent.
“Conor is a player who is infectious with his energy and his aggression to press. He could have been a bit tidier with the ball a few times, but he played one fabulous pass to Harry Kane at the beginning of the second half.”
Next up for England is Wilfried Zaha’s Ivory Coast on Tuesday night at Wembley with the trio likely to be in contention again.
“We’ll make changes, we think that’s the right thing to do,” said Southgate. “We want to keep all of the squad involved. That’s been a strength for us; players who come in, perform well at the level and the team march on. They need to feel that we’ve got the confidence in them to go into any game. We’re also at the stage of the season where their load is heavy and we’ve got make sure we navigate that in the best way possible.
“Tonight was a really worthwhile exercise for us. We want to be stretched and need to be stretched.
“The system was to try to get the players in the squad through the two games in areas of the pitch where they’d be really comfortable. Gallagher and [Mason] Mount who we know press well.
“We’ve got the same mix to give the new guys and the younger guys the best possible chance to succeed and that worked for Ben [White] and Marc in particular [tonight].”