Luke Shaw has talked about the deep sense of regret he carried for more than two years at letting down Gareth Southgate as he vowed to make the most of his fresh start with England.
The Manchester United left-back, who played in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Albania in Tirana on Sunday, said he had shown a lack of respect at being called up in the past, which he put down in part to psychological difficulties.
Shaw’s previous cap for England had been in the 2-1 Nations League defeat to Spain in September 2018, after which Southgate picked him in his next three squads. But after joining up, Shaw would cite injury as he withdrew from two of them – against Croatia and Spain in October 2018 and Czech Republic and Montenegro in March 2019. On both occasions, he then started for United in their next fixture. Shaw had pulled out of other England squads before then.
When Southgate overlooked him for the Nations League finals in June 2019, the manager pointedly said that Ben Chilwell and Danny Rose – the left-backs he did select – had “been completely committed to the England shirt over the last period of time.”
Shaw said: “I’ve a few massive regrets and I couldn’t stop thinking of the mistakes that I made in the past, especially with England. I pulled out of a lot of camps. Over the last two years I’ve thought about it so much and, of course, letting Gareth down.
“The last time I played was Spain. I wasn’t playing much for my club then and it showed that he still very much trusted me. Maybe the camps after … my biggest regrets were just pulling out, and how I pulled out. Maybe at the time, mentally I wasn’t right.
“It was just pulling out when I got to the camp. I massively regretted doing that. Playing for your country is a massive privilege and an honour and I think at times I took advantage of that. I didn’t really think about it too much.”
Shaw had a hard time under José Mourinho at United, although the manager did pick him regularly from the beginning of the 2018-19 season until he was sacked just before Christmas. Shaw, whose fortunes have picked up under Mourinho’s successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, was asked whether his England withdrawals were down to him wanting to ensure that he was fit for his club.
“I did have problems at the time, as in injuries, but maybe they were ones that could have been dealt with,” he said.
“There was a lot on my mind, especially in times I had at United. People obviously know what was going on. But Gareth has given me another chance and I need to prove to him that I’m different and I want to be part of this squad.
“I tried to keep in touch with him just to let him know that things had changed. He’s said he’s picked me on merit. The past is the past and hopefully we’ve forgotten about that now and can just focus on the future.”
Shaw said that he knew of his recall “maybe a week before” it was announced on the Thursday before last because Southgate had told Solskjaer and “Ole was really happy for me so he told me really early.”
Shaw added: “We’d had a few family discussions and we thought that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get back in, although deep down I always believed that I could. It was just a general discussion around the time some of the camps were getting chosen. My mum and dad were thinking that that might be it for England but my girlfriend was different. She always believed that I would fight my way back in. I’ve done that and I’m just really happy to be back.”