Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has revealed that Anthony Gordon is ‘very close’ to an England call-up despite ongoing interest from Scotland.

The 22-year-old forward is one of four Newcastle United players eligible for both countries, with Harvey Barnes, Elliot Anderson and Tino Livramento also being closely monitored by Steve Clarke ahead of next year’s Euro finals in Germany.

Gordon, who has shone for Eddie Howe’s Magpies this season, currently remains on the outside looking in for England, while the likes of Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer and Ezri Konza are all hoping to make their debuts against Malta at Wembley on Friday night.

But manager Southgate hinted that the player’s patience will be rewarded if he is prepared to wait a little longer.

‘He’s a good player,’ said the England boss. ‘He was very good with our Under-21s last year. He’s very close (to a call-up), I have to say. I like his attitude. I like the way he works so hard for the team.

‘Of course, I’m sure he was hoping to get a call at this moment, but there are good players playing well in that position on the field.

‘But, I think, like a couple of others, they’ve always got to think a little further ahead as to, you know, opportunities that can come up.

‘I think, for somebody like Anthony, that’s eminently possible with us.’

As for his more familiar faces, Southgate is ready to revive his Trent Alexander-Arnold midfield experiment against Malta.

The Liverpool full back has excelled playing in a defender-midfielder hybrid role — and the manager is keen to have a closer look at the 25-year-old in a more advanced role at Wembley.

The Anfield academy graduate played as a conventional central midfielder in the first game against Malta earlier this year.

It remains to be seen whether he is deployed as an out-and-out midfielder on Friday night but, given that England are likely to dominate, Southgate will give him licence to spend the majority of the game in the engine room.

Midfielder Conor Gallagher is also hopeful of starting in midfield after some impressive performances for Chelsea, while Jordan Henderson could also play.

Kalvin Phillips is unavailable after missing three training sessions due to a personal matter.

On the prospect of playing centrally, Alexander-Arnold said: ‘In my teenage years I was a midfielder so it’s a position I have some knowledge of.

‘How to conduct myself and perform in the middle of the pitch is something that I’ve been tasked with – and (I’ve been) sitting down and watching and trying to learn and adapt.

‘As for whether I’m a midfielder or not — my specific skillset is probably best suited to someone who plays in the middle of the pitch, someone who controls the game, controls the tempo, creates, breaks line, progresses the ball up the pitch, so those kinds of skills you would say are suited to someone who plays in the middle of the pitch.

‘You probably get more out of me from being in the middle and I’m able to show off that skillset as much as possible.’

England secured progress for the Euro finals with two games to spare and it appears they can seal their place among the top seeds by winning this evening.

However, Southgate is never far away from criticism, and he insisted that he is on a hiding to nothing against Malta.

‘Well, the reality of that is however well we play tomorrow, people will just say it’s a lower-ranked opponent, so it will be irrelevant.

‘People are going to have opinions. I’m probably tired of trying to fight that. In the end, it will be what it is. So I will just let our results and our performances speak for themselves.’

The manager revealed that he had shown his squad footage of England legend Sir Bobby Charlton, who died last month aged 86.

‘A big part of what we’ve wanted to do with our players is to talk about our identity as a team,’ he said.

‘Part of that is knowing the history of our team and having an understanding of how special some of the players that have been England internationals before are. We’ve had the chance to do that this week.’