England boss Gareth Southgate is adamant that he will make no attempt to coax dual-nationality players into representing the Three Lions, insisting he only wants those desperate to feature for this country in his squad.
Southgate’s stance follows a tug-of-war over Crystal Palace’s former Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha, who in November opted to play for Ivory Coast over England and scored in their friendly victory over Russia on Friday.
Former England Under-21 manager Southgate has said he should not have to sell the idea of playing for England and will not be held to ransom by those threatening to switch allegiances.
The 46-year-old referenced veteran striker Jermain Defoe, who scored his first international goal since March 2013 against Lithuania on Sunday, and his hunger to force his way into his plans as being the level of craving he expects.
“I’m English and proud to be English and I think part of your identity as a national team has to be pride in the shirt. So, for me, the commitment has to come from the player,” said Southgate.
“When you’re building an international team, Jermain Defoe is a classic example – his whole life has been a desire to play for England right from Under-16s all the way through.
“If you don’t feel that internal 100 per cent passion for playing for England, then I’m not sure it’s for me to sell that to you. It should be your desire to do it.
“Although I’m always willing to sit down with players, it should be them coming to us. I get that we are competing against other countries and players want to feel valued at times. But an inherent desire of wanting to play for your country is the most important thing if you want to be successful.”
England and Liverpool playmaker Adam Lallana, meanwhile, believes Defoe’s wealth of goalscoring experience can be a major asset for England’s youthful squad for the long term.
Defoe reignited his international career with the opening goal in England’s 2-0 World Cup qualification win over Lithuania, a victory which boosted the nation’s hopes of reaching next summer’s finals in Russia.
Southgate has talked up the prospects of the 34-year-old making the cut and being named in his tournament squad and Lallana concurs that Defoe’s maturity could prove beneficial to the wider squad.
“Of course you can’t win things with just kids and inexperience and it is great to have someone like that around the camp,” said Lallana. “It is refreshing to see the hunger he still has.
“He is determined to, not just be here for this squad, but keep being picked and be in the squad for Russia at the World Cup – and why not when he comes and contributes like he did?”