Gareth Southgate happy with England’s World Cup preparations


England manager Gareth Southgate spoke to Sky Sports News as he waved off Martin Atkinson from St George's Park ahead of the Premier League referee's charity bike ride to Russia

Gareth Southgate says he has been “pleased” with England’s World Cup preparations.

England fly to Russia on Tuesday as they build up to their first game in Group G against Tunisia on Monday at the Volgograd Arena.

Southgate is happy with the look of his youthful squad ahead of his first major tournament as England boss and says the players are keen to get their campaign underway.

When asked about the mood in the camp, Southgate told Sky Sports News: “I’m pleased with the way preparations have gone up to now.

“It will be nice when we fly out tomorrow and it will be good to get on with it. I think everybody is looking forward to getting into the first game.”

0:53 Harry Kane has urged his England team-mates to ignore the nation's previous failures at the World Cup

Southgate was speaking from St George’s Park where he waved off Premier League referee Martin Atkinson who is cycling to Russia in a bid to raise £60,000 for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, Yorkshire Young Achievers, St David’s Hospice Care in Newport and the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Charity.

Atkinson insists British officials have shown their quality in recent years, despite missing out on this summer’s World Cup.

The 2018 global showpiece gets under way in Russia on Thursday, and for the first time since 1938 the tournament will feature no home nation referees.

Mark Clattenburg was the only Briton on FIFA’s long list of candidates in 2016 but lost his place when he quit the Premier League in 2017 to become Saudi Arabia’s new head of referees.

Clattenburg took charge of the Euro 2016 final while Howard Webb officiated Spain’s World Cup final win over Holland in 2010.

Atkinson said: “When you look at the last eight years, what we have achieved as a group of match officials is untouchable. The World Cup final, the Champions League final, Olympic final, Europa League final – we have all contributed.

“Unfortunately, circumstances change and we haven’t got anyone there now. That’s not due to the ability of the referees at all.”