Southgate Reveals Why 'Interesting' Everton Is Ideal Club For Keane

Gareth Southgate says the growing expectations surrounding Marco Silva's blossoming Everton team will provide Michael Keane with an ideal platform to push his England claims.

Keane has been ever-present in England’s European Championship qualifying campaign and could potentially win his ninth cap when the Three Lions host Kosovo on Tuesday.

Southgate handed Keane his senior debut in March 2017 and his side has conceded only twice in the defender’s eight appearances.

Keane last week referenced the “bad spell” which saw him left out of the party for last year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

But the 26-year-old comprehensively banished memories of a tricky first Goodison Park season with an exemplary campaign under Everton manager Silva last term.

He was promptly recalled by Southgate and is now pressing for a starting berth in next summer’s European Championship competition.

“It is going to be interesting to watch Michael with Everton [this season],” Southgate told evertonfc.com.

“I think they are a very interesting team this year in terms of where they might finish in the league.

“We will have to assess in those bigger matches [resulting from being towards the top of the division] how he copes under intense scrutiny – and against those teams which cause you problems with their movement and pose different questions from the ones we might see here [in qualifying matches]."

 
England manager Southgate spoke following his side’s weekend success against Bulgaria of players establishing their “super strengths” between the ages of 18 and 20.

He was being quizzed about Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford in that instance.

But having first coached Keane as his country’s Under-21 boss six years ago this month, when the former Manchester United centre-back was 20, Southgate swiftly identified the player’s innate gifts.

“I think since we worked with him at 20 and 21 years old he has always been comfortable in possession of the ball,” said Southgate, who awarded Keane 15 of his 17 Under-21 caps.

“He has always had a relative calmness in his approach to the game.

“What we have to find out over the next period is [how he manages] the different challenges from different types of forwards – the different movement patterns against the very top teams.”

England bulldozed their way through the opening three games of European Championship qualifying Group A.

Their facile victory over Bulgaria followed a 5-0 thumping of Czech Republic and the 5-1 win in Montenegro when Keane scored his first England goal.

Southgate expects a much sterner test against Kosovo, who enter this week's game protecting the longest international unbeaten run in Europe.

Kosovo, who beat the Czechs 2-1 at the weekend, have not lost in 15 games and play the sort of attacking football which England rarely encounter in qualifying competition.

Southgate concedes the margins for error are significantly reduced in tournament football – leaving Keane and his national team colleagues to prove back at their clubs they can operate under the most acute pressure.

“We are only seven games from naming a squad [for Euro 2020],” added Southgate.

“We have used every opportunity [in qualifying] to try to get the balance right [between winning and giving players chances to impress] and the style of play we need to qualify will be different from the style of play in a tournament.

“We will face higher quality teams in a tournament. Your defending has to be better, your defending of counter attacks has to be much better,

“And you are playing against better quality defenders, so your one-on-one duels are more difficult.

“Your movement has to be sharper and your finishing better.”

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