England boss Gareth Southgate hoping Joe Gomez knee injury not serious
Gareth Southgate is hoping Joe Gomez has avoided a serious knee injury after the “upsetting” sight of the Liverpool defender collapsing in pain during England training.
The 23-year-old had been due to play a key role in this month’s triple-header, only to pull up in alarming fashion on the eve of Thursday’s friendly with the Republic of Ireland.
The Football Association confirmed Gomez has “withdrawn from the England squad having sustained a knee injury in training”, with the defender returning to his club “to await further diagnosis”.
“I can’t tell you how serious it is because he’s yet to have scans,” Three Lions boss Southgate said.
“What was upsetting was to see he was in a fair bit of pain and the fact was there was nobody around him when the injury happened, so I didn’t like that element of it.
“But we’ve just got to wait and see what the scans show and we’re all hopeful for him that it’s not what it might be.
“But it’s not a good situation. I don’t see him being involved in the games with us, that’s for sure.”
The injury is a gut punch for player, club and country.
Gomez suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for Southgate’s England Under-21s in October 2015 and injured his ankle representing the senior team in a friendly against Holland in March 2018.
The defender sustained a broken leg later that year and could miss another lengthy period for Liverpool, who have already lost defender Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury.
Asked if he feared Gomez could have sustained an ACL injury having said “we’re all hopeful for him that it’s not what it might be”, Southgate added: “We can’t speculate on the exact nature of the injury. It’s not possible until we’ve seen scans.
“So, as I say, my immediate thoughts are with him because he’s had some difficulties with injury in the past, so we’re hoping as much as we possibly can and praying that it’s not going to be a long-term one but we just have to see.”
Gomez’s injury comes at a time when players’ wellbeing is a hot topic, with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp among the high-profile managers calling for five substitutes to be reintroduced in the Premier League.
Southgate shares concerns over the increased strain on players, who are dealing with a hectic schedule in a truncated period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Joe is a good example,” the England manager said. “We know the load he’s had in the last six weeks so we gave him and the lads who’d been involved in European matches an extra day’s recovery and yet still something like this has happened.
“There are lots of discussions about extra subs and things like that. But the bigger picture here is that governing bodies, broader authorities need to work together.
“We have a winter World Cup in two years. There was an opportunity this year to think differently.
“The pandemic has thrown up all sorts of difficulties, but everybody’s tried to cram the programme into a smaller period and nobody has given way and people haven’t collaborated enough.
“We are going to see injuries and it’s a desperately sad situation because when you see the impact on an individual, it hits home even more.
“We’re now trying to affect things too late. A lot of these discussions could have happened in the summer.
“We could have delayed the start of the league, we could have delayed international football.
“We could have adjusted the calendar in its entirety and all worked together. And people haven’t done that.”
Southgate will try to balance his needs with those of his players against Ireland, when Reece James – suspended for the Nations League matches against Belgium and Iceland – is set to start in front of Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Former Irish youth internationals Michael Keane and Jack Grealish could be involved at Wembley, as could Declan Rice against the country he represented at senior level on three occasions.
But arguably the biggest moment would be a debut for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, with the 17-year-old in line to become the Three Lions’ third-youngest player on Thursday.
“People will have a view of what a midfield player is but there are very specific roles within midfield positions,” Southgate said of the Birmingham academy graduate, who was promoted from the Under-21s due to James Ward-Prowse’s injury.
“But the bigger picture here is a great opportunity to bring another young player with us that is going to benefit England for the long-term. Whether he stays with us for the full week, we’ll decide after the game.”