England boss Gareth Southgate: Club vs. country row talk is 'nonsense'
Gareth Southgate has dismissed talk of a club versus country row as "nonsense" as he prepares for Friday's friendly against Germany with a depleted squad.
Tottenham trio Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Harry Winks were forced out of the initial 25-man squad, with Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson later withdrawing.
Kane withdrew from the squad on Monday after taking a knock during Spurs' win over Crystal Palace last weekend, but questions were asked about the severity of his injury when Mauricio Pochettino said he would be fit for next weekend's north London derby against Arsenal.
It has been widely reported that, as a result of the withdrawals, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will start against Germany and win his first cap, despite the Crystal Palace midfielder, who is on loan from Chelsea, not having won a Premier League game this season.
Speaking in a news conference, Southgate said: "We've had to change plans because there was so much uncertainty coming in but we've got the players we've got and I've really enjoyed the week.
"New players coming in -- it's a great opportunity for us to look at them."
Asked if he was satisfied that all the players who had withdrawn were genuinely injured, Southgate said: "Yeah, absolutely.
"Harry Kane -- I knew he was in trouble because he stayed down -- Harry Kane doesn't stay down.
"Both him and Harry Winks were scanned, our medical department reviewed, and there is no way they're available for our two games. Spurs might risk them for the Arsenal game, that's a different matter.
"I hear this talk of club v country -- it's nonsense. They are injured and they can't play."
In late March England played Germany in Dortmund, where that friendly match was marred by offensive chants from a section of visiting supporters.
Ahead of the latest meeting between the nations, Southgate condemned the fans responsible for the songs and praised Germany for deciding to pay their own respects by wearing black armbands bearing poppies.
Of the chanting, the England boss said: "I think it's completely unacceptable. We have a huge percentage of fans who follow us away but there was an element shouting things that night that were unacceptable.
"We're talking about individuals and the vast majority of the supporters are brilliant.
"I think Germany have taken a huge step in terms of agreeing to wear the poppy."
John Stones is excited about the double-header against two of the world's best teams, with Friday's opponents boasting two of his Manchester City teammates in Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan. After the Germany game, Brazil follow suit on Tuesday.
"You always want to play with the best and play against the best, to test yourself at your maximum capability," said the centre-half. "It always helps to have a bit of insight into how those players work. Bringing two world-class teams to Wembley is going to be great for the fans and a great opportunity for the players.
"We've done our research on Germany but we don't want to overanalyse. It's about working hard on the training pitch and that's where the valuable time is spent. Whoever we come up against, we can go into the game knowing that we trained for it."
Stones added: "Obviously we've got a few Brazilians in the team at City, so you get a feel for it. But it's kind of unknown territory, which I think is very exciting for me, personally. Coming up against the best always brings you to your best and it creates that challenge.
"It's one that is going to be a great atmosphere for the fans and to bring them to Wembley, packed out again, we've got to go out there and show what we can do and put them on the back foot. I think with the players that we've got, the hunger that everyone's got in their bellies, it's a great occasion.''
Despite being rocked by a succession of injury setbacks, Southgate is sticking with his plan to run with a three-man defence in these games and beyond.
Stones has started on each of the three occasions England have previously trialled that defensive system and will do so again against Germany.
"I don't think there's any preferred system for me, personally,'' he said. "You've got adapt to what's put in front of you and be comfortable enough to be adaptable in however and whatever position you play and whatever system you play.
"I think it's another string to our bow and me as a player that you can swap and change in the game or whoever you're playing. I feel like I have been developing from the start of last season when I first went to City. I don't think there's ever been a point where I've not been developing, not been learning.
"That doesn't mean it has always been good. I've had to take dips and have a good look at myself. I feel every day that I go out on to the training pitch it is a chance to get something out of it and I think the boys all have that same mentality and that's why everyone's performing for their club. We've been on a good run personally and I want to keep that going.''