Gareth Southgate has stressed the importance of discipline off the pitch after Leicester’s James Maddison dashed his slim hopes of making England’s squad for Euro 2020 by attending a party that breached Covid-19 protocols.
Although Southgate refused to criticise Maddison after Brendan Rodgers dropped the midfielder, Ayoze Pérez and Hamza Choudhury for Leicester’s defeat at West Ham last Sunday, he does not want anything hurting his team’s preparations this summer.
England’s manager has little time for indiscipline after dealing with various misdemeanours last autumn, when Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell, Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden broke coronavirus regulations, and he was happy when last month’s World Cup qualifiers passed off smoothly.
“Leicester have dealt with the situation brilliantly and they’ve got a massive game on Sunday [the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton], so I don’t think I should talk about specifics,” Southgate said. “We’ve had issues ourselves in the autumn. That’s always very difficult for coaches. I compare that with March where we came in with no dramas. It’s a much better environment to prepare for football. We were only having to make football decisions.
“When we went into the tournament in Russia we had minimal distractions. That’s something I talked to the players about after the autumn. In the autumn discipline off the pitch and on the pitch created the biggest issues for us and meant we didn’t get to the semi-finals of the Nations League. It still annoys me when I look at that lineup: Italy, Spain, Belgium, France.
“ Coming into the summer we’ve got to make sure we arrive into the camp giving ourselves the best chance to focus on football and that helps to create a calmer environment for everybody to go into the tournament.”
It was bad timing for Maddison given that he missed a chance to shine in front of Southgate, who was at the London Stadium to see another of his attacking midfielders, Jesse Lingard, score twice for West Ham. With summer approaching, time is running out for those on the fringes of the squad to catch the manager’s eye.
Equally Southgate, who met the first two winners of the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award on Tuesday, acknowledges that injuries will hit his squad before the season is over. West Ham’s Declan Rice is battling to be fit for the tournament after a knee injury, though Southgate is optimistic the midfielder will be ready.
“We are in touch with the club,” Southgate said. “I didn’t actually see him on Sunday. The rules are very strict about where you can and can’t be. The club are optimistic he will be back for their run-in.”
With speculation mounting over Harry Kane’s future at Tottenham, Southgate said it would be hard to keep talk of transfers out of the England camp at the Euros. “There’s what everybody would like and there’s a reality that whatever we say there will always be conversations,” he said. “I’d be a bloody hypocrite because I put a transfer request in [at Aston Villa] on the eve of Euro 2000. I know I’m a hypocrite in a lot of areas, but I’ve got to make sure I don’t get pulled on that.
“But I was just as determined to play well. It wasn’t a distraction for me. Talks will go on in the background and I don’t imagine any clubs or players would want agents in during that period. If you speak to players, they want those things to be going on in the background.
“I’m practical about those things, I know there’s a reality, the players are mature enough to deal with that. I think it’s actually harder when you’re at a club, you’re back into a pre-season and you’ve got players that are in a situation where: ‘ Are they leaving, or aren’t they leaving?’ I think that’s far more complicated for everybody because nobody’s really sure of what they are going to be working with. They’ll be fully focused on England.”
• Nationwide and the Football Association have pledged to ensure 1 million parents and coaches engage with the FA Respect campaign over the next three years. The Nationwide Mutual Respect Award aims to help make grassroots football more respectful and positive.