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Gareth Southgate would love Kalvin Phillips to fight his way into England’s Euro 2024 squad but felt he had to drop the out-of-sorts midfielder this month as he was not confident about his performance levels.

The 28-year-old has established himself as a key figure in the national team set-up since winning the first of his 31 caps away to Denmark in September 2020.

Phillips was named England men’s player of the year for 2020-21 after shining in the run to the European Championship final, but pressure has mounted on his position since leaving Leeds for Manchester City in 2022.

The midfielder barely made an impact under Pep Guardiola and joined West Ham on loan in January, but a disastrous start there led to his omission from Southgate’s final squad before naming his Euros selection.

“There are times when you know your best players are your best players,” the England boss told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Other people might doubt it but you’re going with them because you know that you can get that level of performance from them.

“At the moment, I couldn’t be confident on the performances Kalvin’s had in the last few weeks that he could go onto the field and do the job we know that he’s capable of.

“So, there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t find that form. Nothing would give us more pleasure than having a Kalvin that’s back in the rhythm of playing and back to full confidence.

Kalvin Phillips looks disappointed
Kalvin Phillips has endured a disastrous start at West Ham (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“We will be a better team, squad, whatever that might be, if that’s the case, so we’re hoping he can find that.

“Maybe a moment like this where you think, well, that’s perhaps the lowest it can get for him in terms of the last few months, now he can just go for it and be himself.”

Southgate last year warned that Phillips’ place was in jeopardy if he continued to be a peripheral figure at City but believes the “outstanding player” has the attributes to bounce back.

“I think he knows exactly what we think of him,” Southgate at the Wembley press conference. “I think we’ve shown that support.

“A good version of him is an important player for us and that’s why we’ve supported him as we have. We don’t have many players of that profile.

“Unfortunately, his form just hasn’t been good enough. I’ve spoken to him about that, he understands.”

Phillips was omitted from the 25-man squad for March’s Wembley double-header against Brazil and Belgium, which has seen Southgate have to juggle a swathe of injuries among other things.

But setbacks for some means opportunities for others, with Everton centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite, 21, and Newcastle forward Anthony Gordon, 23, receiving their first senior call-ups.

“He’s good with the ball, shows good composure, good mentality,” Southgate said of Branthwaite.

“He’s a left footer and we don’t have many left-footed defenders, so he’s in our merit and we’re really keen to work with him and find out a bit more about him.”

On Gordon, the England boss said: “Consistently good performances. He was very close in November, as we said at the time.

“He’s continued his form, he’s scoring, his work for the team is excellent. He competes, which is important, so I really like his attitude.”

Arsenal’s Ben White ruled himself out of a call-up and there was a return from the international wilderness for versatile Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, who won the last of his 11 England caps in 2020.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney is also back at first time of asking, having returned from an eight-month Football Association betting ban in January.

Anthony Gordon celebrates for Newcastle
Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon has received his first senior call-up for England (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Southgate does not know whether there is enough room in the Euros squad for him and Ollie Watkins to back up Harry Kane this summer, but he wanted to work with the one-cap striker again.

“I think we feel that Ivan is one of the contenders in that role, so it’s important to bring him back in and for him to be able to work with us again,” Southgate said.

“He’s shown straight away, getting back into Brentford’s team the quality and the impact that he can have.”