Gary Neville has described England’s series of injury setbacks at right-back as a “staggering” situation.
Reece James went off in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at AC Milan on Tuesday with a knee issue and the extent of the damage is being assessed.
That follows Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold suffering an ankle problem on Sunday and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker last week undergoing groin surgery.
The World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 20 and, while hopeful about recoveries, Neville says to not have at least two of the trio available would be “a massive problem” for boss Gareth Southgate.
The 85-cap former England and Manchester United right-back told the PA news agency: “You go from a few weeks ago, it’s probably the strongest department and you’re thinking one of those really talented right-backs may be left out, to we’re in trouble in that position. It’s staggering really, what’s happened.
“We just have to hope they get fit. Trent came off on Sunday, Kyle’s injured, Reece James injured (on Tuesday) night. Kieran Trippier himself has had injury problems.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d have played many games for England if those four were around in my day, if at all, because they’re absolutely outstanding.
“I just think it would be a real shame if we didn’t see Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker – particularly those three. We know Kieran Trippier’s a good performer, but those three have got outstanding aspects to them and for them not to be in a tournament would be a big blow.
“So I’m hopeful we can get at least two of them out of that three back fit again, because it would be a massive problem if they weren’t. I think one or two of them will be fit.”
Another England defender to have been nursing an injury is United captain Harry Maguire, who in the 3-3 draw against Germany at Wembley last month gave away a penalty and lost the ball at the start of a move that ended in another goal.
Neville expects to see the centre-back make the squad for Qatar if fit, but said: “I think there comes a point where you’ve got to say he’s not in good enough form (to start).
“His credits were there to keep his place in the team in the Nations League games, but I think the fact of the performance against Germany… if he’s injured, he won’t go, but even if he goes, how do you really integrate him into the team having not played for two or three months, in the form he’s been in? I think it would be very risky for Gareth to do that.”
Despite the result against Germany, in their last fixture before the World Cup, extending England’s winless run to six matches, Neville feels optimistic overall about how Southgate’s men might fare in Qatar, after the runs to the last four of the 2018 tournament and the Euro 2020 final.
“I don’t have any major concerns because I genuinely think when the time comes for the real games, these players have delivered in the last two tournaments,” he said.
“I know it might prove to be something that’s naive if England don’t do well, people will say the warning signs were there. I don’t feel like that though today. I think the players have got a good enough bond with each other and that when the real games come, they will switch it on.
“I would be optimistic – why wouldn’t we, after the last two tournaments?”
Ten days before the World Cup starts, Neville will be taking part in a second Overlap Live show, alongside Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane, at Ovo Arena Wembley.
The live shows follow the success of Neville’s The Overlap YouTube channel, launched in April 2021, and he said: “It’s become one of the biggest parts of my life. We’ve had fantastic people on and I absolutely love it.
“The live was always something I wanted to do with it, we did that in Manchester last year and then thought let’s go for London this year ahead of the World Cup. We’re really excited by it.”
The Overlap Live – with Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane – hits Ovo Arena Wembley for its biggest ever live show on Thursday, November 10. For tickets and more information go to www.cuffeandtaylor.com