GARETH SOUTHGATE cast a watchful eye over Jack Butland as injury-stricken striker Harry Kane watched from the sidelines – WITHOUT his protective boot.
The Spurs striker paid his Three Lions team-mates a surprise visit ahead of England’s clash with Italy on Tuesday.
Kane was snapped in deep conversations with Southgate, pictured without his protective boot for the first time since aggravating an ankle injury against Bournemouth two weeks ago.
And he witnessed Stoke stopper Butland being put through a series of drills on Sunday at Tottenham’s training complex.
Butland is widely expected to start against the Italians on Tuesday as the race for the No1 jersey heats up.
Everton’s Jordan Pickford was given the nod in the 1-0 win over Holland on Friday and played a crucial part in Jesse Lingard’s winner.
Southgate wants his players to build from the back and that’s exactly what Pickford did when he showed composure, rushing out of his area before playing a simple pass into John Stones.
The clean-sheet will give Pickford and Southgate a boost – but Butland would not have given up hope of pipping him to the No1 jersey.
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Joe Hart, who has 75 caps for his country, may have lost his place in the side following his dismal form for West Ham.
Burnley’s Nick Pope has impressed in the league this season but his lack of experience may prove too much of a gamble in Russia.
Butland believes the fierce race to become No1 can only make every candidate raise their game.
He said: “Unfortunately with Joe not playing at the minute, it’s opened the door a little bit. Joe’s still an incredible keeper and England’s No 1.
“So I guess for the others there’s an opportunity to show what they are about and try and stake a claim for the No 1 spot.
“But competition can only be a good thing.
“It can only breed better performances from people. It certainly keeps you checking over your shoulder and making sure you are doing as well as you can.
“For me, I have always felt it’s all in my own hands. I have got to make sure I’m playing well enough. If I’m playing consistently and well, then there’s always a chance I will be able to get into the squad.”