England manager Gareth Southgate insisted his side must learn to cope without star striker Harry Kane in case he should miss this summer’s World Cup.
Kane has been ruled out for England’s friendlies later this month against the Netherlands and Italy due to an ankle ligament injury.
Southgate is confident Kane will be fit in plenty of time before the showpiece in Russia, with Tottenham hopeful he will return next month.
However, Southgate is conscious to avoid England’s past failings of resting their hopes on one star player.
“It’s a disappointment for us not to have Harry with us,” said Southgate as he announced his squad for the March friendlies on Thursday.
“I think of the 14 games I’ve had, he’s only be available for six and, within those six, he’s scored seven goals so that’s an indicaton of his importance and standing for us.
“Having said that we’ve had to cope without him, it’s important we learn to cope without him because you never know what’s going to happen in football.
“Always part of what I’m working on is to strengthen the squad and that people are able to come in because we’ve been to previous tournaments and lost important players and the focus is always on that rather than the collective.”
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Southgate handed an international recall to Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, while Burnley duo Nick Pope and James Tarkowski and Swansea’s Alfie Mawson are called into the squad for the first time.
However, Chelsea captain Gary Cahill is one of those to pay for a lack of game time at club level as he is left out.
“It’s obvious to everybody we have a very small number of English qualified players playing in the Premier League,” added Southgate.
“On top of that a number of our better players have had time off with injury or, through selection, missed matches.
“Now ahead of a World Cup I’ve got to look at who are the players we believe can play at the level.”
Southgate also admitted that the goalkeeping position is still up for grabs due to long-time established number one Joe Hart’s lack of action for West Ham.
Pope is one four ‘keepers included alongside Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford.
“Clearly the number one jersey is up for grabs. Joe has had a difficult period with his club,” said Southgate.
“From our point of view, he has 74 caps, (was) number one during qualifiers, is an important member of the squad.
“We don’t know how the next 8-10 weeks will pan out for all of our goalkeepers but there is good competition for places.”
Squad in full to face the Netherlands in Amsterdam on March 23 and Italy at Wembley on March 27:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (West Ham on loan from Manchester City), Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Kyle Walker, John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Alfie Mawson (Swansea)
Midfielders: Eric Dier, Dele Alli (both Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (all Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Jake Livermore (West Brom)
Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).