Gareth Southgate prepared to take young England squad to Russia
Gareth Southgate is ready to take a young, "fearless'' squad to the World Cup -- even if that bold approach puts the England manager's job at risk.
Pragmatism has made way for experimentation as the Three Lions prepare for Russia next summer, with five-time champions Brazil lying in wait after Friday's encouraging goalless draw with holders Germany.
Eric Dier will again skipper an injury-hit England side that utilises a three-man defence and the youth at its disposal, with a trio of uncapped players pushing for their debut after five made their international bow on Friday.
Jordan Pickford, Joe Gomez and man-of-the-match Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed their boss on a night when the youngsters showed more in one match "than you might see in many more games from other players.''
Southgate says their emergence is creating "opportunities'' rather than selection headaches and the England manager will not shy away from backing youth next summer.
"I will go with what I think is the best squad,'' Southgate said. "At the moment I believe the best would include a lot those young players.
"It's easy to be swayed at times by needing experience but you can have 100 experiences of the same thing or 10 different experiences that make you a more rounded person.
"What is the experience and what value it brings is a very individual thing.
"These young players have also had experience of winning youth tournaments, playing high level matches and challenges to get to where they are in their path.
"So they've had to show some resilience of their own. We'd love to have a team full of players who have won the Champions League but we haven't got that.
"But I want players who will be fearless, prepared to have the ball and show what they are capable of on the biggest stage.''
That fearlessness will be matched by their manager.
"I think I was given the job because I understand the pathway and to join the whole thing up,'' the former England's Under-21s boss, and head of elite development at the Football Association, said.
"But I can't control if we have moments of pressure, how other people respond.
"If you're a manager and you worry about that it inhibits your decisions.
"You can become risk averse, and there's a danger if you're risk averse you can forget about trying to win, and try not to lose.''
As for Brazil. "[Philippe] Coutinho hasn't played for a few weeks for Liverpool but he is there for Brazil,'' said Southgate, who has seen eight players withdraw from his initial squad.
"I imagine part of that is because he is thinking 'if I'm not there and I'm not playing and someone else goes in do I get the shirt back?'
"Maybe we haven't had that, but I think moving forward we will have and I think that will affect people's approach definitely.''
That approach extends to focusing on the England shirt rather than acquiring another, no matter how much of a special keepsake the jersey of Neymar or his Brazilian teammates may be.
"I've got a wardrobe full of shirts at home and I think they're all full-backs because it wasn't high on my list of priorities to go and swap,'' Southgate said, smiling.
"By the way, there are a load of full-backs saying 'I've got f***ing Gareth Southgate's shirt', so I accept that works both ways.
"I used to talk to young players about this at Middlesbrough.
"David Wheater, I pulled him over the coals because he bowled off with Thierry Henry's shirt after a game.
"I said 'right, OK, where do you think that leaves you when you play him again next time? Because you were waiting to get his shirt and it's given him a sense of 'oh OK, you're just a young one''.
"You are either going toe-to-toe with these guys or we are just here for the tour.''
Meanwhile, Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook -- who became England's first World Cup-winning captain since Moore in 1966, albeit in the Under-20 edition of the tournament -- is hoping to make his England debut in a fixture forever associated with Moore's career.
Cook has been promoted to the seniors for the friendly against Brazil alongside fellow rookies Angus Gunn and Dominic Solanke.
Moore's performance against the same opponents at the 1970 World Cup forms another major part of his legacy, as does the classic picture of him shaking hands with Pele in the aftermath.
The match is taking place in association with the Bobby Moore Fund, with collections taking place for the cancer charity, and Cook is eager for a taste of the action.
"It is obviously a great achievement for myself, to be named in the same sentence as someone like him,'' said the 20-year-old.
"It is a hard one. It took a while for it to sink in. I got back from the World Cup and when I got to the training ground everyone congratulated me and that is when it sunk in.
"Coming here is a great achievement too, just being around the lads is really great for me. Even if I'm just on the bench I'll just take it all in. I am really excited to be here.''
Just as he took time to come to terms with being a World Cup winner Cook admits he is still processing his maiden call-up for the Three Lions, even after two days of training with the squad.
"It has been a whirlwind few days,'' he said, having been informed of his summons 24 hours after skippering the Under-21s to a 2-0 win in Ukraine.
"I was blown away and was really excited just to meet all the lads and take it all in.''
Like Loftus-Cheek, who excelled on debut against Germany on Friday, he has been a regular face in England's age-group sides since his early teens.
The notion of the Football Association's "England DNA" blueprint has drawn its fair share of sceptics but Cook believes in the common thread that is starting to run through all the teams who wear the Three Lions.
"England are trying to get an identity of how we want to play,'' he said.
"I think it's just trying to be the best we can be on the ball and trying to create something that we all can do throughout the age groups. We can see that happening with how well we have been doing.
"I feel like I must have ticked some boxes and I'm grateful for the opportunity.''