Gareth Southgate admitted he would risk his English reputation by assisting disgraced Manchester United captain Harry Maguire in Milan on Friday.
Maguire is expected to start in a back three against Italy in the Nations League game, England’s penultimate game before the World Cup. The decision could put more pressure on Southgate, who was booed and jeered by supporters at the end of Hungary’s shocking 4-0 in England’s final game in June.
“I am the manager of England and you are judged purely on results and in the moment,” said Southgate. “I’ve been in football for over 30 years and I know how it works with fans. The most important thing is that the players are together, the staff and I am supported by the people I work with and the rest … I am my own biggest critic, I am someone who will always carefully assess everything no matter how good it is has gone, and you don’t expect to lose 4-0 at home and don’t get criticized.”
When asked if he was risking his reputation by standing next to Maguire, Southgate replied: ‘Whatever reputation I have, I’ll put it on it. I think, look, you always have to back your judgment and we think he’s an important player.” Maguire has lost his place at United since Erik ten Hag’s arrival as coach after Brentford’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat over Brentford. a month ago.
Since then, Maguire has only started once, Real Sociedad’s 1-0 defeat in the Europa League, before losing his place again for the trip to FC Sheriff, in which he played one minute as a substitute. With John Stones suspended for the trip to Italy, Maguire could finish in a back three, which is unpopular with a group of fans and critics, alongside the recalled Eric Dier and Kyle Walker.
Speaking of Maguire’s lack of action at United, Southgate said: “Look, it’s clearly not an ideal situation. You want your best players to play regularly so that they are in a good place physically and mentally in a good place. But he is an important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players.
“He understands he’s at a big club, high transfer fee and club captain, so I think that’s why the spotlight is more on him. But he’s focused on training well every day and putting himself out there.” The squad that we picked, there are quite a few players that you could say we could have left out, but I think we wanted to keep that group together and keep them in. But they also know that, for some of them, they need to play more regularly because now we are only a few weeks away from the pre-season, so physically, if they’ve had a couple of 90 minutes that’s fine. eight weeks, that is starting to get more complicated.”
Jordan Pickford’s injury could give Nick Pope a chance in goal, while Southgate confirmed Jordan Henderson would not be involved against Italy, meaning Jude Bellingham will start in midfield alongside Declan Rice. Harry Kane will start up front and the England captain revealed he has hired a Spanish physio, with whom he flies once a month, to help with his ankle injuries that have caused him problems before.
“I took my hamstring out against Southampton in January 2020 and since then I’ve found this new physio and we’ve been working together for almost three years now,” said Kane. “He’s been really great to me, we’ve worked hours and hours over the last three years, built a really good relationship and I’ve seen changes in my body in terms of what my ankles were like before and now after. I’m at a total other place, so it is really enjoyable.”
Kane declined to name the physio, but added: “I wasn’t anxious, but I was frustrated. When you’re trying to put together a good season, you’re in good shape and you get the same kind of injuries all the time – I kept getting ankle injuries and that led to a bigger hamstring injury. So I think as I get older and more mature, you learn more about your body and how your body adapts to things, when to push and when not to push too hard. So you learn along the way, and I’ve certainly learned very well over the past few years about my body and myself. That has helped me to consistently play at the level I have.”