The Manchester United youngster was omitted from Southgate’s senior squad once again ahead of the final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino later this month, having not played since being sent home from a trip to Iceland last year for breaking Covid protocols.
Southgate reiterated that the 20-year-old has been left out with his development in mind, as he looks to establish himself as a first-team regular at club level under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Teenage midfielder Jude Bellingham was also surprisingly left out of the October squad after a long season with Borussia Dortmund but will return for November’s camp, with Southgate insisting that England’s younger players are not simply ‘picking and choosing’ when to play international football.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, the Chelsea winger with three senior caps to his name, has also declined the opportunity to join up with Lee Carsley’s Under-21s this season, believing that his time is better served by attempting to break into Thomas Tuchel’s first team at club level.
Southgate revealed on Thursday that Greenwood’s continued omission is part of an agreement with the player and his family to “park” his international career until 2022 and that he was not considered for selection this autumn.
“We had a discussion before the camp in September and we sort of came to an agreement. John McDermott [the Football Association’s technical director] and myself went to United and had a good chat with Mason and his family. We agreed we would park this until next year basically, we’d leave the autumn games.”
Southgate refused to discuss the specific details of Greenwood’s situation but insisted that the youngster still wants to play for England and the Iceland affair is not a factor in his long delay between his first and second senior cap.
“There’s no suggestion that what happened before is in any way… that’s totally not the case. We’ve tried to pick him and indeed we did pick him in the provisional squad for the summer.
“I think anything else really, it’s right for him to speak because I might not be able to represent that in the fairest and most considered way but I think I’ve given everybody an overview of how it is.
“Where I’ve been fair is to say that he absolutely wants to play for England and he’s very clear on that.
“He recognises that’s a bit of a journey to go on and if he doesn’t get it right over a longer period and doesn’t nail down his situation at the club then maybe there isn’t an England career anyway. I think that’s very much part of his thinking and there’s a lot of common sense in that as well.”
When asked whether some of his predecessors as England manager would have accepted players ‘picking and choosing’ when to play, Southgate said: “I think this is a bit different because you’re talking about really young players and when you’re talking about young player development, normally this happens outside the public eye.
“As I said earlier, these boys in particular now in Under-19s and Under-21s, we’ve got to be really careful how hard we push. They’re still physically developing. They’re still taking on board a lot in maturing in their own lives and particularly in the modern world you’ve got to listen to that I think.
“As a coach, I’ve got to get that right. These are not boys that are going to tell me something that they don’t feel from the heart and don’t have any interest in playing for England.”
Southgate added: “We don’t want to get it wrong in the short term and possibly have a detrimental effect for them, for their clubs, for us as a national team further down the line.
“I understand the line of question but it’s not how that has felt. They’ve both been really clear. Jude clearly is in this time and wants to be and we’re not not picking Mason because we don’t think he’s good enough or we’re saying we’re not happy with what he did and what he requested.
“We’re totally understanding of that and we were happy to wait.”
Southgate did, however, express scepticism over Hudson-Odoi’s decision not to make himself available for Carsley’s Under-21s set-up. The 20-year-old is still eligible to represent Ghana.
“I can’t talk as much about Callum because of course we would like him to be with the under-21s. He feels that he would be best served staking a claim the team at Chelsea. I think he’s got a better chance of impressing us if he’s with the under 21s as well, frankly,” Southgate said.