Gareth Southgate insists ball is in Ben White's court as Arsenal ace faces England decision for Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate insists ball is in Ben White's court as Arsenal ace faces England decision for Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate insists he has “absolutely no issue” with Ben White and reiterated that the door remains open to the Arsenal star as England’s defensive injury concerns mount ahead of Euro 2024.

White has not been involved in the England squad since flying home early from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to what were described as “personal reasons”.

Southgate had hoped to recall the 26-year-old for this month’s international break on account of his fine club form, but revealed that Arsenal sporting director Edu had telephoned the FA to inform them that White did not want to be considered for selection.

The Three Lions were without a number of senior defenders for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium and looked vulnerable defensively. Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Marc Guehi and Trent Alexander-Arnold were already sidelined coming into the games while Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker picked up fresh injuries during the camp.

Of those players, only Shaw appears to be in a genuine race to be fit in time for the tournament, but with the business end of the club season still to come, Southgate is well aware of the potential for further issues to emerge - and of White’s quality should he change his stance.

“It's really for Ben now,” Southgate said. "As I've said, the door is open for us.

“That's clearly difficult ahead of the Euros, when [he’s] missed all of the qualifying campaign and you've got players that have played all the way through.

"But we have no idea of knowing who's going to be available in that area of the pitch. We’ve lost four to injury this camp. So, as I said, for me, it's open. I have absolutely no issue.”

Speaking ahead of Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Belgium, midfielder Declan Rice had said he hoped to convince his Arsenal teammate to reverse his decision.

He also suggested that Southgate may have spoken to White again since making the state of play public knowledge following this month’s squad announcement, but the England boss says that is not the case.

“No,” he said. “I respected the situation as Arsenal have communicated with us. I don't know any more than you.

“So, in the end, I know the conversation I had with him last March. I felt I should back away from it a little bit. But I've always left the door open. I was keen to bring him in in that camp.”