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Gareth Southgate has revealed in-form Arsenal defender Ben White does not want to be selected by England at the moment.

The 26-year-old has starred for the Premier League leaders this season but has not featured in the national team squad since the 2022 World Cup.

White returned early from Qatar for what the Football Association called “personal reasons” and reports later emerged of an alleged bust-up with England assistant Steve Holland.

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate faced the media on Thursday (James Manning/PA)

Southgate denied any such fall-out on Thursday, when he had hoped to include the defender in his squad for March’s Euro 2024 warm-up friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

“Look, it’s absolutely the question you should ask because clearly on form I can’t sit here and say he doesn’t deserve to be in,” the England boss said.

“We, (FA technical director) John McDermott, had a call from (Arsenal sporting director) Edu last week to say that Ben didn’t want to be considered for England squads at this time.

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

“I spoke to him post-Qatar because I was keen to pick him and there was clearly reticence on his side. I don’t know fully why that is, but I have to respect that.

Ben White
Ben White has been in fine form for his club (John Walton/PA)

“I want to leave the door open for him because he’s a good player and I think he’s a player who can make a difference for England.

“But he’s not available to us and so the only other thing I would say is there is no issue between us at all.

“And also I should say there’s never any issue with Steve Holland because that has sort of been mentioned in articles and I don’t like that.

“People can talk about me, and I have to accept that things get said that are false about me. For whatever reason in this role, you have to almost stomach that.

“But I’m not prepared for that to happen for a key member of my coaching team because that is not the reason Ben is unavailable for selection.”

England Training Session – St. George’s Park – Thursday 12th October
Southgate dismissed suggestions of a fallout involving his assistant Steve Holland (Joe Giddens/PA)

Southgate handed White his England debut against Austria in June 2021, then drafted him into the squad for that summer’s rearranged Euros as replacement for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The defender did not make an appearance in the run to the final, nor did he play a minute at the World Cup in Qatar.

The bombshell news that White does not want to add to his four England caps came hours after the announcement that he had signed a new and improved contract at the Emirates Stadium.

The 26-year-old agreed a new four-year deal, with the option for a further 12 months, the PA news agency understands, having featured in every Premier League game this term.

White says it is “unbelievable” to have found his home at Arsenal but clearly does not feel as comfortable wearing an England shirt.

“I have to respect it,” Southgate said of the decision. “Look, he’s not the first player that at certain times hasn’t wanted to be available for selection.

“So, I’ve always tried to protect those players because I always want the door to be left open, even though on lots of those occasions I’m the one that gets it in the neck for not picking them and people don’t know the reasons.

“But sometimes as a leader, you have to take the flak for others and allow them time to come through.

“Sometimes we’ve had young players that haven’t felt comfortable coming away with England, when I was with the Under-21s and then as they get older, they get more comfortable with it. So there can be all sorts of reasons for that.

“As I said, I think we should respect that. I repeat: he’s clearly playing very well and has been for a long time but he’s not available.”