Gareth Southgate: Why I selected Ben White ahead of Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk

Ask many Brighton fans this season and they will say Lewis Dunk has been their outstanding defender just ahead of Ben White

Ben White and Lewis Dunk have formed a formidable defensive partnership this season
Ben White and Lewis Dunk have formed a formidable defensive partnership this season

Ben White's selection into the latest England squad is fully justified but some fans were surprised to see White included ahead of their skipper Lewis Dunk

Both have performed superbly this season but it was the 23-year-old who was given the nod ahead of Dunk, 29, who has previously been capped by Southgate back in 2018 for a friendly against the USA.

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White's ability to play anywhere across the defensive line or in a defensive midfield role was also key.

"Ben is younger so there's an investment there for the future," said Southgate. "We've tracked him since he was on loan at Leeds.

"We've seen him play in midfield, he's comfortable on the ball and has pace.

"It's still early for centre-backs of his age, and Ben Godfrey, they tend to mature later. We think it's a good opportunity for them to come and work with us.

"They (White and Godfrey) are both exciting young defenders, there are others we have been looking at that we really like.

"These two are flexible, they play in different roles, this is a great opportunity for them to work with the team. There is no way of knowing how long they will be with us at this stage but it should be a fantastic experience for them."

Southgate will reduce his 33-man squad to 26 next Tuesday, a day before England play their first warm-up game against Austria.

The Three Lions then play Romania (6 June) with both games taking playing at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.

On the Euro 2020 squads being expanded from 23 to 26, Southgate added: "I'm still not a fan of 26, like [Spain coach] Luis Enrique. You want everybody to feel there or thereabouts, which is difficult if some players are not even going to be on the bench.

"It's not a great dynamic but there's a risk with not taking 26, with the injury doubts and Covid."