Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho will miss England’s friendly against Wales on Thursday and their involvement in the Nations Leagues ties against Belgium and Denmark that follow is also in doubt after reports that they breached Covid-19 rules by attending a party in London on Saturday.
The Football Association told the three players to stay at home on Monday rather than report to St George’s Park, where Gareth Southgate assembled his squad. Raheem Sterling has withdrawn because of an injury picked up during Manchester City’s game against Leeds but Southgate has given a first call-up to Reece James, meaning he has 27 players at the national training base.
All were tested for coronavirus, with the results expected to be known within 24 hours. It is understood that Abraham and Chilwell and Sancho will be tested remotely – in other words, outside the St George’s Park bubble – but that is yet to happen.
It is unclear when they will be tested and the apparent lack of urgency does not bode well for their involvement against Belgium on Sunday and Denmark next Tuesday. All three games are at Wembley.
The FA wants to monitor them to see whether they develop any symptoms and their exclusion from the camp so far is regarded as an extra precautionary layer – with the priority being to ensure the safety of the rest of the squad.
The governing body is also effectively buying itself a little time to investigate the events of Saturday, when Abraham’s family and friends reportedly threw a surprise party at his house to celebrate his 23rd birthday. According to the Sun, there were about 20 people present – breaking the government’s “rule of six” coronavirus guideline.
It is the latest headache for Southgate after the off-field problems that blighted the previous camp in September, when he dropped Harry Maguire after the defender’s criminal trial in Greece following allegations of a violent altercation with police and then sent home Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood for Covid breaches. The pair had invited two women to the team hotel in Iceland.
Southgate had already planned to remind his players at a meeting on Monday evening about what is required on England duty in terms of standards and discipline or, in his words, “what it means to wear the shirt”. Abraham, Chilwell and Sancho can expect a dressing-down for how they have disrupted the squad’s preparations.
One of the frustrations for Southgate and the FA is that Saturday’s episode happened while the players were on club time. The manager has previously commented on how the players are with their clubs for 300 days of the year and he cannot be held accountable for their actions then. When Foden and Greenwood broke the rules it was during the international break and, as such, Southgate and the FA had the authority to act unilaterally.
Abraham has apologised to Chelsea and they are to remind him and his clubmate Chilwell of their responsibilities.
Abraham told the Sun: “I arrived home to find a small surprise gathering. Though I was totally unaware this was planned, I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for the naivety shown for the organisation and attending of this gathering. All I can do now is learn from it, apologise to everyone and ensure it never happens again.”
Sancho, who did not play for his club, Borussia Dortmund, on Saturday because of illness, has also apologised for his actions. “I would like to apologise for breaking the government guidelines and although I was unaware upon arriving [at the party] of the numbers attending, I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I will make sure that I learn from this.”