Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood have been sent home from England duty after breaching the team’s coronavirus guidelines.
Manager Gareth Southgate said on Monday that the Manchester City midfielder and the Manchester United forward would not be travelling from Iceland, where they made their senior England debuts on Saturday, to Denmark for Tuesday’s Nations League match.
“Unfortunately this morning it was brought to my attention that the two boys have broken the COVID guidelines in terms of our secure bubble – we had to decide they couldn’t have interaction with the rest of the team,” Southgate said.
“Given the procedures we have to follow they will have to travel home separately.”
Southgate added: “Nothing has happened in the areas we occupy in the hotel. We are still getting to the depths of all the information because this was only brought to my attention a couple of hours before training, so I’m still getting to grips with the detail.
“What is clear is there is a breach of the Covid-19 guidelines. The whole squad have really followed that to the letter. I’m not going into any more details until I’m aware of everything.
“We’ve spent a long time putting the guidelines in place, and the whole squad have followed that to the letter.
“We’ve had four tests in the period we’ve been together, our staff have done an incredible job of keeping it secure and tight, which was so important both to get the games played and also for the safety and security of our team and staff.
“So in that respect we have no alternative but to do what we are doing.”
Allegations emerged in the Icelandic media outlet DV on Monday that the pair were visited by two local girls during the trip.
But Southgate insisted: “Nobody from outside our party has been into the areas of the hotel that we occupy.”
Asked whether there is a question mark over whether the match in Copenhagen will still go ahead, Southgate said: “We are very clear that no other members of our party have been in contact with those two players.
“That’s why they couldn’t go to breakfast this morning or join us for training. We are very clear we have followed all the guidelines in that regard.
“It’s a very serious situation and we have treated it that way and acted as quickly as we have been able to.
“I’m trying to take a lot of information in. They have been naive and we have dealt with it appropriately.
“I recognise their age, but of course the whole world is dealing with this pandemic and there is a responsibility on every age group to play their part, to keep each other safe and not spread the virus.
“We are not certainly underestimating how important it is we keep the bubble the way we have.”
Asked if the incident had damaged Foden and Greenwood’s chances of England selection in the future, Southgate said: “It’s too early, until I have all the information and am totally aware of every situation I don’t think I should be making those comments.
“I’m a father of young children and I know young adults can get things wrong. We are not excusing that in this instance and we have to asses everything else moving forward.
“I think we have to treat every incident separately. These are two boys I don’t know particularly well at the moment. I can’t speak in great depth, I’ve got to try to speak with them later in the appropriate way.
“They’ve got responsibilities. They have apologised. But everything has happened so quickly, we’ve got to get to the bottom of all the facts.”
The players’ clubs were quick to react to the situation.
Foden’s club, Manchester City, released a statement condemning his behaviour.
It read: “Manchester City FC are aware of the story which has emerged today from the England national team camp in relation to the behaviour of Phil Foden. We have also seen the comments from England manager Gareth Southgate.
“It is clear that Phil’s actions were totally inappropriate. His behaviour not only directly contravenes strict guidelines related to Covid-19, but also falls well below the standard expected of a Manchester City player and England international.
“The club supports the FA regarding this incident, and officials from the club are now in touch in relation to Phil’s enforced early return to the UK.
“We have no further comment to make on this matter.”
Manchester United said of Greenwood: “We are liaising with the Football Association and are disappointed with the actions of Mason Greenwood over this situation.”
Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton questioned the discipline under Southgate.
Shilton tweeted: “Are the cracks starting to appear with the discipline in the England camp on the pitch and off it with Walker getting sent off in ridiculous fashion for a second silly challenge and Foden /Greenwood with off the field COVID breach!”
The incident comes just a few weeks after Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire was arrested while on holiday on the Greek island of Syros.
“This is a job like no other in terms of what you have to deal with,” added Southgate.
“In terms of what’s expected, the players who have been with us a long time know what is expected.
“Whenever people have stepped across the line with us we have dealt with it appropriately. We can’t be responsible for things people do when they are not with us.”