Euro 2024: Declan Rice sympathises with left-out England stars

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England midfielder Declan Rice says he sympathises with the players left out of Gareth Southgate’s final squad but insists none of them have left feeling bitter.

The Three Lions head coach had to cut his 33-man provisional squad to 26 ahead of the summer tournament in Germany and it meant leaving some big names at home.

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James Maddison, Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish were all snubbed while the likes of Adam Wharton, Eberechi Eze and Anthony Gordon were included.

England have gone heavy in attack for the event and will be relying on the quality of Rice and the defenders behind him to ensure the nation’s safe passage past Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia in Group C.

While it will be hard for the players who will not be travelling, Rice and those who will be involved must now fully focus on the task at hand.

Speaking after the final squad was announced, the Arsenal man said: “It’s been really tough. Madders [Maddison] and Jack [Grealish] are two of my best mates in the squad, probably spent most of my time with them since I’ve been here.

“To see them go is not a nice feeling. And they’ve both just said then, before they went, Madders last night, Jack just now, that they wish us all the best.

“They’re gutted they’ve been left out of the squad. We’re so close as a group and no one is feeling really bitter about being left out.”

There are a couple of names in the squad that at the start of 2023-24 nobody would have expected to be included.

Kobbie Mainoo only emerged at Manchester United in the final few months of the campaign but has earned a lot of praise from pundits and his team-mates, including Rice.

He added: “I think we saw in the last gamp against Brazil and Belgium what Kobbie [Mainoo] can do and obviously all season in what he has done at Manchester United.

“He fully deserves his place in the squad.”

Wharton is another who has been included and he only made the step up from the Championship in January.

Rice has been blown away by what he has seen from the midfielder, who stood out in the win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday.

Rice said: “Adam [Wharton] played the first half of his season in the Championship and to come to Crystal Palace, he has been outstanding.

“In training he has been impressing a lot of the players, he’s so calm on the ball and he has a beautiful left foot.

“I think there’s a difference, you can see in players who are top-level players at 20 and players that are on the cusp of stuff.

“And he’s top level. He sees a pass early, left and right foot. It’s impressive the way he passes a ball.

“You speak to the Crystal Palace boys about him, he’s shocked them on how well he’s done.

“But he’s 20-years-old, it’s his first tournament. It’s so important we don’t put too much pressure on him.

“Let him flourish and England are going to have an amazing midfielder to come through for the next 10 to 15 years.”

The Three Lions will open their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on 16 June before taking on Denmark four days later and rounding off the group stages against Slovenia.

 

Mitch Fretton
Mitch Fretton
Mitch is a freelance sports journalist with experience working for LiveScore, GOAL and Colchester United. He has experience working from both his desk at home and in the press box at games covering the Champions League and international football.

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