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Southgate calls for fan unity

Gareth Southgate has thanked England fans for their support and has urged them to “come together” once more ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

In an open letter to fans, the England manager said he is “exceptionally proud” to be leading the side to Russia.

Southgate announced his squad for the tournament on Wednesday which included the decision to leave out a number of highly experienced names.

Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Chris Smalling were all omitted from the 23-man squad, the third youngest to be named by an England manager for a World Cup.

In the letter released on Friday, Southgate said: “To all our England fans. I am exceptionally proud to have the responsibility of leading England to a World Cup.

“I think this is an exciting squad, and I want them to relish the opportunity and embrace everything about being at a major tournament.

“It is important this squad can feel a bond and close connection with supporters. In recent weeks, I have been to Walsall and Leeds to meet fans from our England Supporters Travel Club who will be heading out to Russia.

“We’re always appreciative of the lengths that people go to in terms of time, cost and commitment while following us across Europe and beyond and we are very conscious we represent the whole country.

“All of us are ambassadors for England. But we have all been fans as well, rushing home from work or school to watch our games. They are experiences that have been part of my life and I hope we can provide some special moments for you all in the weeks ahead.

“I know you will get behind the squad and are looking forward to seeing them develop on the World Cup stage. They are hard-working, keen and passionate about England, just as much as we are as staff and you are as fans.

“It’s now time for us to come together, get to work and see what we can achieve.”

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