Southgate’s plan for England revealed with four whizkids eyed to play key roles

Gareth Southgate has got 2020 Vision before Russia 2018 even ends as he plots a bright future for England.

Southgate’s target is to build on the success and feel-good factor of this World Cup and usher in a new Golden Generation in time for the next European Championship in two years’ time.

The Three Lions’ boss is convinced his squad have proved in reaching the last four this summer that they can forget the failings of past sides and bring through a new generation and winning mentality which will set up the national team for long-term success at senior level.

Southgate is already planning his Euro 2020 qualification campaign for that tournament — when football really will be coming home as the games are going to be shared out across Europe rather than have a host nation and England could end up playing their entire finals campaign at Wembley.

That has always been the tournament circled by the Football Association as when they would see the benefits of the St George’s Park training complex pay off as the graduates from the successes at youth level from Under-17s upwards come of age.

Southgate has got FOUR players earmarked as the shining lights of England’s next generation — the ones he believes have every chance of breaking through.

Fulham whizkid Ryan Sessegnon, now 18, will become an English version of Gareth Bale if he can live up to the hype and expectation surrounding the nation’s brightest prospect following the Cottagers’ promotion to the Premier League.

There is every chance Watford’s Nathaniel Chalobah would have been in this World Cup squad but for injury. That the 23-year-old midfielder was invited to do his rehabilitation with the England seniors before the tournament sent a very clear message.

Manchester City’s Phil Foden, 18, was the diamond in the Under-17s World Cup winning midfield last year, and the only worry with him is whether he will get enough game time at the Etihad.

Finally, Chelsea’s midfield prospect Mason Mount, 19, is also seen as a big one for the future, having won the Golden Player award as the U19s won their European Championship.

Mount, Foden and Sessegnon have even taken out to Russia 2018 by Nike to experience the atmosphere of a major tournament and meet England legend Alan Shearer. They now feel as if they are part of the Three Lions’ future.

The big miss from England’s conveyor belt of talent is an out-and-out striker. Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah looks the most likely to come through, but the 19-year-old is not as far down the line as the players mentioned above.

Former U21s boss Southgate has never been afraid to blood youngsters and his faith in a player such as 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, picked in the World Cup squad despite only sic Premier League starts for parent club Chelsea, only goes to prove that he is ready to be bold.

“We have to build," he said. "We have some good young players come through. We’ve had success at youth level. What we’ve done over the last few weeks has shown people what is possible, and we’ve got to use it as a springboard to consistently reach the latter stages of tournaments.

“Of course, we have one of two paths to go. This is either a moment of rare hope and we sink back, or we build in the way that Germany did in 2010. We want to be in semi-finals, finals, and we’ve shown to ourselves that can happen.

“The team and the individuals will be better in a couple of years’ time. Some of these big matches, you just have to go through them and live them to know how to react in the right moments in the right way.

“I know that we can reflect on the progress we’ve made. The way that a lot of individuals had incredible tournaments and as a team we’ve had an incredible tournament.

“We’ve played in a style that we wanted to play and come through so many barriers as a team that have been historic difficulties for us.”

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The World Cup has been a remarkable ride, a campaign to lift the mood and break down mental barriers after winning a penalty shoot-out and ending a desperate sequence of 12 years without a knockout phase victory at a major tournament.

It has also helped the nation fall back in love with the team, a huge turnaround because the negativity around England has been overwhelming and intimidating for players in the past.

They are all major successes for Southgate and yet he insists he does not want to take the third place play-off with Belgium on Saturday lightly — even though it is often regarded as a meaningless game.

He added: “It’s the chance to have our second-best ever finish, and the chance for the players to get a medal.

“So there’s that, and there’s the pride in playing for your country again. So we’ll try and get the team that is best able to do the job.”

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