Southgate leaves door open for injured Reece James & Kyle Walker for World Cup

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Gareth Southgate will keep the World Cup dreams of crocked pair Reece James and Kyle Walker alive today when he names England’s provisional squad for Qatar.

The England boss must submit a preliminary squad of up to 55 names to FIFA and will select both on his longlist, in the hope they can prove their fitness ahead of next month’s tournament.

Manchester City defender Walker is recovering from a groin injury and Chelsea star James has a more serious knee ligament problem.

Southgate is encouraged by the progress Walker has been making from surgery and remains hopeful he will be fit enough to make England’s final 26-man squad.

There is less positivity regarding James’s recovery — but the Chelsea defender is still expected to feature in the provisional squad.

Kalvin Phillips, who has played just 14 minutes all season, is also set to be included as he recovers from shoulder surgery but, like Walker and James, his hopes of making the final squad depend on how that recovery continues. Joe Gomez and Eberechi Eze are also set to be included.

It is understood Southgate and his backroom team believe only 70 to 80 players are realistic contenders to be named in England squads, meaning the pool of talent available for a squad of up to 55 names is limited.

Part of the reason the FA introduced stricter work permit rules post-Brexit was to increase the number of players available for England.

However, clubs feel the rules restrict development as they believe young players can only fulfil their potential by training regularly with the world’s best.

Despite the FA’s fears over the lack of homegrown footballers at the top level, the likes of James Maddison, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho are in danger of being left at home.

All of them are likely to be named in Southgate’s provisional squad, but none can be guaranteed a place in his final party.

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