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 By PA Sport

Southgate believes young England players changing supporters' minds

Gareth Southgate will continue to trust in youth after seeing a fresh-faced England begin the process of reclaiming public affection.

Southgate sped up his evolution of the Three Lions squad this month, handing out six debuts as his side recorded successive 0-0 draws against the world's top two sides, Germany and Brazil.

With a host of regulars absent through injury and several more overlooked in a warning shot from the manager, the likes of Jordan Pickford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Gomez seized their chance to prove themselves on the big stage.

In doing so they helped sweep aside some of the rancour and frustration that crept in last month as a pair of insipid 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Lithuania saw England qualify for the World Cup in joyless fashion.

On the night England booked their spot in Russia, the Wembley faithful seemed more entertained by their own paper planes than events on the field, but Southgate thinks bridges have already been built with supporters.

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"I think they've succeeded in changing the wind of public feeling,'' he said. "That's a huge credit for the way they've taken responsibility. They've shown belief, they've worked for each other and they've dug in.

"I know they're basic qualities but they're qualities we've been accused of not having in the past. They've shown them in abundance.

"I hope the English public will see these boys gave everything. I would hope there's a little more of a connection, it feels like a little connection between supporters and the team.''

There are a number of seasoned players harbouring hopes of returning for the next get together in March, with games against Italy and Nethterlands effectively forming a final audition for the tournament.

Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Harry Kane and Dele Alli would all expect to return if fit, while the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge all have the ability to change Southgate's mind about them.

But it is increasingly likely there will continue to be chances for the young, inexperienced talent Southgate so clearly trusts.

"Hopefully there's a message for others: We've given these guys the opportunity and we believe there are others coming through our youth systems,'' he said. "We're showing people what youth development in our country can produce.

"These guys have gone ahead and done really well. I'm enthused by that.''

Southgate must now wait four months before getting the chance to work with his squad again, an interested spectator as the various challengers vie for his attention in the Premier League.

There will be no attempt to convene the squad for a bonding session between international breaks though, an idea Roy Hodgson tried and failed to get off the ground due to club commitments.

Instead, Southgate and assistant Steve Holland will clock up the mileage staying in touch.

"There's been a huge bond developed between the group over the last 10 days. To keep this momentum going is important,'' he said.

"We'll be visiting them at their clubs, seeing them individually and in grounds.

"Drawing everyone together to arrange everybody's diaries...I don't know. There's football every night of the week.

"If we're going to bring everyone together there has to be a real purpose and plan. We've got to respect that they've got games with their clubs but I do think we're building something.''

Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, right, turned in a man of the match performance for England against Brazil.

And captain on Tuesday night Eric Dier agreed with his manager, despite being depleted by injuries to the likes of his Tottenham teammates Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

"As England as a team, we have the individuals now it's just bringing everything together as a team,'' Dier said. "We're working on that and we're definitely going in the right direction.

"The ambition of everyone here is to keep improving and progressing to be on the level with the best teams in the world.''

Dier says England, knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland, should not be fazed, no matter who the opposition.

He added: "Our mentality needs to be that no matter who we're playing against, we want to try to dominate the game, affect the game and win the game.''

Dier thinks the likes of Gomez and Loftus-Cheek have shown the depth of talent is present for England and he hopes the newly-blooded players will keep improving.

"The squad was very depleted, but the young boys have come in and done so well,'' Dier added.

"I thought Joe Gomez was just brilliant [against Brazil], Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] the other day [against Germany].

"What they need to do is keep improving, keep playing at a high level on a consistent basis.''

And even if it gives his manager headaches, defender John Stones wants Southgate to feel challenged every time he picks a squad or an XI.

The Manchester City defender said: "When you get the chance you've got to take it, like the lads did [against Brazil] and against Germany as well.

"The manager wants that problem, to know that everyone's firing and we want to make it difficult for him to pick a team.

"That healthy competition is what makes us better as players. Fighting for our place. Everyone wants to play for the country and that's what it's created.''

Stones received support from the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Joe Hart and his former Everton teammate Phil Jagielka early in his England career.

And now he is passing on his wisdom to the new crop of talented Young Lions.

"It's short and simple, really. You don't want to flood [Gomez's] brain for when he's coming out on the pitch,'' Stones said.

"That's what I found out when I was growing up, playing in big games. I didn't want to be overrun and have too much information.''

The Brazil contest at Wembley was like an attack versus defence training game at times, with the visitors having the vast majority of possession. And Stones faced a familiar direct opponent in City teammate Gabriel Jesus.

As the central figure in a new-look back three, with Gomez and Harry Maguire of Leicester either side, Stones' role was key.

"I think my performances speak for themselves,'' he said.

"I've done my talking out there, wanted to improve.

"It's about having a look at yourself and looking where you can improve and not shying away from where you've gone wrong. And that's what drives you to be a better player.

"You can't argue with two cleansheets against two top oppositions.''


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