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Sport

Southgate says teenager Bellingham could make England debut against Ireland

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifier - England v Turkey - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - October 13, 2020 England's Jude Bellingham in action with Turkey's Altay Bayindir Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/

(Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate said he could hand Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham his first cap when they host Ireland on Thursday, making him the third-youngest player to represent the country.

The 17-year-old midfielder was called up after James Ward-Prowse and Trent Alexander-Arnold withdrew due to injury. Only former skipper Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott were younger than Bellingham when they made their England debut.

“If we can get him on the pitch and he gets some match minutes as well, that will be a bonus,” Southgate told a news conference on Wednesday.

“My initial conversation with him was that you’ll have a few days with us, we’ll involve you in the game, we’ll see how it goes, and that’s going to be a brilliant experience for him.”

Southgate said picking Bellingham was a great opportunity to bring in a youngster who could benefit them in the long-term.

“It’s always interesting to see the reaction when we select a player, because people are immediately talking about other players without understanding why we’ve called Jude up,” Southgate added.

“It’s not a decision that he’s a better player than one or two older players who I’ve seen mentioned although those players don’t play in the position that he plays. And that’s a fact.

“Whether he stays with us for the full week, we’ll decide after the game.”

After Thursday’s friendly at Wembley, England will play Nations League A Group 2 games against Belgium on Sunday and Iceland three day later.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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