England manager Gareth Southgate says Jake Livermore’s loyalty to the cause deserved to be rewarded.
West Brom midfielder Livermore is in the squad for this month’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy despite the struggles of the Baggies – who are seven points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.
Having included him ahead of players such as Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey, Southgate stood by his decision – and has spoken about Livermore’s response to being called up for the last England squad, as a late replacement, for Wembley friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
Livermore turned 28 on November 14, the day England hosted Brazil, and had been set to go on a birthday trip away with his family.
Southgate said: “It’s very straightforward for me.
“We’ve played Jake in several matches and he’s done a job for the team. In November, we left him out, and he was just about to board a plane.
“He left the family at the airport, he came in, he did really well for us against Germany and Brazil, and I think that has to carry some weight when you are building the spirit and culture around your team.
“That doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to go in the summer, but I think it justifies him staying in our squad, because he has been an important member of our squad in building what we want to build in terms of togetherness and spirit.
“That is the sort of example of sacrificing what you are doing for the team that I think is important.
“So I get that, I know when I pick Jake it is going to get a certain sort of reaction. But there is a specific reason for why we have done it this time in particular.
“It’s an important message for the group that if you are left out and have disappointment, first of all there is opportunity to come back in, secondly we want you to take that opportunity and respond in the right way, and who knows what might happen?”
However, Chelsea midfield duo Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater may have their work cut out if they are to make the World Cup squad.
Southgate said: “Danny’s not been in Chelsea’s team and we felt with the players we’ve discussed – the likes of (Lewis) Cook and (Jack) Wilshere, on top of those we’ve had in those deeper positions – there were other players we wanted to see. Simple as that.
“I think Ross has just not been fit. He went [to Chelsea] on the back of a long-term injury, quite a serious one, and only had a couple of matches really.
“So I don’t think he’s available for selection now anyway, so he’s unfortunate in the way that has played out in this year in particular.
“It’s going to be difficult for him I think to get the number of games he needs now. But we know he’s a talented player.”