Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell leave England’s difficult Euro 2020 camp with another obstacle to overcome

·5 min read
England’s Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell (Getty Images)
England’s Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell (Getty Images)

England’s start to Euro 2020 has hardly been free of setbacks but there were no Covid-related complications, until Monday evening that is. Gareth Southgate has a new obstacle to negotiate with the news that Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are isolating after an “interaction” with their Chelsea teammate and Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour, who has tested positive for the virus.

Every member of the England squad returned a negative lateral flow test result on Monday, a day after all being cleared by Uefa’s mandatory pre-match PCR round of testing. Even so, Mount and Chilwell are being kept away from their teammates as a precaution while the national team consulted Public Health England on a timescale for their return.

Meanwhile, Gilmour’s Scotland teammates have also returned negative tests since Friday’s goalless draw at Wembley and will not isolate. Steve Clarke’s side must beat Croatia at Hampden Park tonight in order to have a chance of progressing to the tournament’s knockout stages.

There were a lot of live and open questions last night and Southgate, through no fault of his own, could not immediately provide the answers. At the time of his pre-match press conference, the England manager did not know whether Mount and Chilwell will be available to play against the Czech Republic at Wembley this evening.

“There’s obviously got to be quite a doubt but there's still discussions and investigations behind the scenes,” he said. Southgate mentioned the possibility of the pair observing a full 10-day period of isolation, taking them right up to next week’s last-16 ties. “There's a lot of unknowns frankly at this time.”

Images of Mount and Chilwell congratulating Gilmour on his man-of-the-match performance were widely shared online after the announcement of the young midfielder’s positive case. That is not thought to be the interaction in question and would not be such a problem, given that it was in the open air. A longer conversation, thought to have been held in the players’ tunnel, is the source of the concern.

“It would be something to do with chatting after the game but I have no idea of all the detail,” Southgate said. “That’s why we’ve taken the decision at this point to isolate them. That’s why we’re having to have the discussions with Public Health England, as I understand it, and I’m sure the guys will update you as soon as they know more.”

The England camp first realised that there may be an issue shortly after training at Tottenham’s Myddleton Lodge base and Southgate admitted that the development was “disruptive”. Mount was expected to start, while Chilwell was in contention to play despite having not featured in the opening games.

Southgate could not help but note the inconsistency between England and Scotland’s approaches. “I don't want to cause a drama for Scotland but if you're all in the dressing room together where does everything stand? I don't know, is the honest answer to that.” But he was reluctant to draw too much attention to those differences. “I don’t want to make life difficult for Steve. I want him to do well, he’s a great guy and we’ve got a very good relationship. The last thing I want to do is make his life more difficult, frankly.”

England can only focus on their own situation and Southgate has already had to overcome several difficulties during these past few weeks.

Less than a month ago, he opened this camp by claiming that England’s preparations were more complicated than any other nation competing at this European Championship. Mount and Chilwell were among the 11 players to join the camp late due to their involvement in major European finals with the clubs. Those late arrivals have affected selection decisions ever since.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury then deprived Southgate of one of his most creative talents, even if there is ample cover in his position. Dean Henderson has also withdrawn, and though losing a second-choice goalkeeper is not a killer blow, he was originally third-choice. Nick Pope’s injury right before the squad was announced has left England vulnerable if Jordan Pickford is unavailable for any reason.

The absences of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson have been difficult to absorb, given their seniority within the squad. The captain, Harry Kane, is enduring a rough spell and form. Now, there is a real possibility of two important players missing games because of having a casual post-match conversation. It is as if something can go wrong, it will go wrong – a truism of many previous England camps at international tournaments. “There is an element of that,” Southgate admitted.

But then, so far under Southgate’s stewardship, they have dealt with these difficulties well enough. All those of the past few weeks have not prevented England from reaching the knock-out stages with one group game to go, after results went their way on Monday night. “The last 12 months in particular have been remarkable in that sense but I suppose it meant as a group of staff we’ve had to be resilient, we’ve had to be adaptable,” Southgate said.

“We’re calm in these situations, we make the best decisions we can with the information we’re given and we’re waiting to see how this plays before we rush into changes or finding out what goes on,” he added. “My biggest hope is for the two boys – that they’re not going to miss 10 days of a European Championship. That would be a massive blow for us, but for them as well.” How big a blow it is remains to be seen. “We just have to see how it plays out.”

Read More

Uefa block rainbow stadium display at Euro 2020 because of ‘political context’

Denmark revels in the joy of football and its new national heroes

Euro 2020 LIVE: England team news as Mount and Chilwell sweat over places after Gilmour Covid test

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting