Arsenal’s White has refused to play for England Southgate

Gareth Southgate has revealed Ben White is refusing to play for England.

The England boss on Thursday named a 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium with Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite and Newcastle winger Anthony Gordon both selected for the first time while Ivan Toney was recalled following his eight-month suspension for breaching betting rules.

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But despite injuries to several defenders including Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James and Marc Guehi, White was not included despite excelling in an Arsenal side that is top of the Premier League and through to the Champions League quarterfinals.

White was selected for the 2022 World Cup but left the camp early citing “personal reasons” amid reports of a training ground row with Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland.

The 26-year-old has not been included in a squad since the World Cup in Qatar and when asked if he was now available, Southgate said: “Look, it is absolutely the question you should ask because clearly on form, I can’t sit here and say he doesn’t deserve to be in.

“We, [FA technical director] John McDermott, had a call from [Arsenal technical director] Edu last week to say that Ben didn’t want to be considered for England squads at this time.

“For me, that’s a great shame. He’s a player I really like. He’s a player we took to the Euros when he was at Brighton, a player we took to the World Cup.

“I spoke to him post Qatar because I was keen to pick him and there was clearly reticence on his side. I don’t know fully why that is but I have to respect that.

“I want to leave the door open for him because he’s a good player. I think he’s a player who can make a difference for England.

“But he’s not available to us and so the only other thing I would say is there is no issue between us at all, and also never an issue with Steve Holland because that has been mentioned in articles and I don’t like that.

“People can talk about me and I have to accept things get said that are false about me and for whatever reason in this role, you have to almost stomach that. But I’m not prepared for that to happen to a key member of my coaching team because that is not the reason Ben is unavailable for selection.

“He would be in this squad. But he’s not available to us so I have to focus on those who can help us.”

Since making the step up from under-21s boss to England head coach in 2016, Southgate has worked hard to reshape the culture around the set-up with players often highlighting how the 53-year-old has created a positive environment after years of negativity.

But Southgate said: “I have to respect it [Ben’s decision]. He’s not the first player that at certain times hasn’t wanted to be available for selection.

“So I’ve always tried to protect those players because I always want the door to be left open, even though lots of those occasions I’m the one that gets it in the neck for not picking them and people don’t know the reasons.

“But sometimes as a leader, you have to take the flak for others and allow them time to come through. Sometimes we’ve had young players who haven’t felt comfortable coming away England, when I was with the Under-21s and then as they get older, they get more comfortable with it.

“So there can be all sorts of reasons for that. As I said, I think we should respect that. I repeat: he’s clearly playing well and has been for a long time but he’s not available.

“The very first squad I picked, I had a player call and say ‘thanks but no.’ You just have to move on. That’s the reality of the job. There are lots of things outside of your control and you are not always able to share the detail of those things but that’s the way it has to be.”

Southgate insisted White could still be picked for Euro 2024 but admitted it wouldn’t be straightforward.

“Clearly to come in for June now will be difficult. Others will have been in the squad and playing regularly so whenever you have a situation like that, you’ve always got to assess those who have been on the journey all the way through. We’ve done that over the years with various different situations.”

Southgate made the surprise move to drop Kalvin Phillips, a player he had been loyal to throughout a difficult spell out of the team at Manchester City.

Phillips left City to join West Ham on loan in January in a bid to revive his fortunes but he has endured a difficult start to life in east London including a red card against Nottingham Forest last month.

“I think he knows exactly what we think of him,” Southgate said of Phillips, who last missed out on a squad in September 2022 when he withdrew because of injury.

“I think we’ve shown that support. A good version of him is an important player for us. That’s why we’ve supported him as we have.

“We don’t have many players of that profile. Unfortunately his form just hasn’t been good enough. I’ve spoken to him about that, he understands. He’s got all the attributes to force his way back in and we’re really keen for him to do that.

“But I said towards the end of last year when we were picking squad, if he continued to not to play at City that was going to be a problem. He just needs to find that rhythm and confidence because there’s an outstanding player in there. I’m sure he’ll find that.”

There was also a recall for Liverpool defender Joe Gomez while Manchester United pair Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford kept their places.

England Squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), ​​John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Ajax), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Declan Rice (Arsenal)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United) Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)