Gareth Southgate has an England squad to recapture happy-ship energy | Barney Ronay

The 26-strong pool of players travelling to Qatar for the World Cup is the strongest group to leave these shores since 2006

And … clear. Stage one completed. With the announcement of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England World Cup squad safely despatched the early signs are, it has to be said, pretty good. Potential hazards appear to have been glossed or co-opted. The situation is calm. When it comes to negotiating the fraught pre-tournament void, a cursed earth of brain-shouts and rage-swirls and curdled hope, this is probably about as good as it gets.

It is one of the many roles of any modern England coach to manage also the expected rage of these occasions, to come on like an embattled community support officer policing some lawlessly enraged Friday night city centre, a place where we are at any point just one misstep from “a situation”, a pile-on.

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