Gareth Southgate: Arsenal defender Ben White didn’t want to be considered for England call-up this month

Ben White

England national team manager Gareth Southgate has revealed that Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar called the Three Lions to ask that Ben White be excluded from the March call-up as the player did not want to be considered.

The Gunners defender has not played for the country since returning home early during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for ‘personal reasons’ and has been omitted from subsequent squads.

White has been one of the best players at Arsenal this term, impressing at both centre-back and right-back, and Southgate insists he wanted to recall him to the England fold following his splendid form so far.

“On form, I can’t sit here and say [White] doesn’t deserve to be in,” the Three Lions boss said after announcing his latest squad.

“[Technical director] John McDermott had a call from [Arsenal sporting director] Edu last week to say Ben didn’t want to be considered for England squads at this time.

“That’s a great shame, he’s a player I really like, he’s a player we took to the Euros when he was at Brighton, to the World Cup.

“I spoke to him post-Qatar, because I wanted to pick him. There was clearly reticence from his side, I don’t know fully why that is. But I have to respect that, I want to leave the door open for him, because he’s a good player and he can make a difference for England – but he’s not available to us, so the only other thing I would say is there is no issue between us, at all.

“There’s no issue with [England coach] Steve Holland, because that has been mentioned in articles and I don’t like that. People can talk about me and I have to say things get said about me, which are false, and you have to stomach that for whatever reason in this role. But I’m not prepared for that to happen to a key member of my coaching team. That is not the reason Ben is unavailable for selection.”

When asked whether White could still go to Euro 2024 if his stance changed before the tournament, Southgate replied: “I want that door wide open.

“He would be in this squad, but he’s not available for us, so I have to focus on those who are with us.”

England face Brazil and Belgium on March 23 and March 26, respectively, but will do so without the Arsenal star.

There are no more international breaks until the UEFA European Championships 2024 kicks off in June, and it is hard to see White making the preliminary or final squad for the tournament.

Only the player knows the reason for his decision not to be included in the squad this month, but it appears he is no longer keen on playing for the country having been regularly ignored since the end of the World Cup.

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