OLIVER HOLT: Gareth Southgate is finally showing his teeth and England will be better off

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Gareth Southgate has earned an A rating by sweeping the mess of others over the past two months. Last week he got fed up. For once, just for once, an England manager stood up for something he believed in and left his two best young players, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood, out of a squad because they had violated the culture of team he is trying to build and disrespected the country that was their host.

There was more. For once, an English coach listened to a Premier League boss try to tell him what it was like and instead of hiding in a corner when Jose Mourinho threw his dishonest flap over not wanting to tell the ‘England when they should play Harry Kane – while telling England. exactly when they should be playing Harry Kane – Southgate swayed out.

It was time. Maybe it was the lockdown boredom or maybe we just worried about the novelty of being nice to an English manager but, over the past few months, Southgate has been cursed with slight praise despite leading his team in the later stages of the most recent. two tournaments in which they have competed and accelerated England’s most exciting emerging talents to their squad.

Gareth Southgate has finally shown his teeth after sweeping up other people’s mess recently

England boss came out swinging after Jose Mourinho opened up about Harry Kane's playing time

England boss came out swinging after Jose Mourinho opened up about Harry Kane’s playing time

Of course, the narrow Nations League victory in Iceland last month was disappointing and the draw against Denmark in Copenhagen a few days later was more or less the same, but even if they were competitive matches in name, the reality was that because of the chaos caused. by the coronavirus, they were little more than preseason friendlies. England escaped with four points in two games under difficult circumstances.

And anyway, have we really forgotten so quickly how far Southgate has taken England and the change in atmosphere and ethics it has made? Just two years ago, he led his team to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia, our best performance at a major league in 22 years. He was lucky, apparently, as England had only to beat Colombia, who had finished at the top of their group, and Sweden, who had finished ahead of Germany at the top of theirs, to win. hoist in the last four.

The following summer, England under Southgate reached the semi-finals of the Nations League. Lucky again I guess, although I find it hard to remember too many people saying it was fluke when Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Kane ripped apart Spain in Seville in October 2018 at the start of the tournament and handed them their first home. defeat in a competitive match for 15 years. Oh, and England also finished top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group.

Southgate changed the atmosphere and ethics of England and didn't do much wrong

Southgate changed the atmosphere and ethics of England and didn’t do much wrong

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were left out but they are kids and will make stupid mistakes

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were left out but they are kids and will make stupid mistakes

So when the reviews say Southgate is easy to drive, well, yeah, because it didn’t hurt much. And if he has been disappointed with players over the past few months, then he has earned the right to deal with those players in the way he believes is best suited to preserve the culture of openness and honesty. , self-respect and unity, which he has built within the team.

I would have restored Foden and Greenwood to the squad for the next games against Wales, Wembley on Thursday, Belgium and Denmark after smuggling two Icelandic girls back to the team hotel after the victory of England in Reykjavik, flouting the quarantine rules. They are kids and kids make stupid mistakes. They have already served a punishment. But I’m not going to argue with Southgate and leave them out. He treats them like adults because, when they are in the field, they have to take their responsibilities like adults.

When people in the public eye flout the coronavirus rules, they can expect to be pilloried and possibly suspended from their jobs. Foden and Greenwood have only themselves to blame. They know that. And their absence opens up deserved opportunities for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Saka.

Southgate has often been accused of being too nice in the past but was right to draw the line

Southgate has often been accused of being too nice in the past but was right to draw the line

Perhaps the failings that began to creep in – Sterling’s brawl with Joe Gomez, Harry Maguire’s stay in a Mykonos jail cell, and the Foden and Greenwood misadventures – had reached the point where Southgate to trust the players was taken advantage of. Maybe that will change now.

And maybe a tin Machiavelli like Mourinho will take a break before making another clumsy attempt to pressure the England manager to put Kane down. Southgate was absolutely right to call the Spurs manager.

And he was right to remind Mourinho that as Euro 2021 approaches, the question is more how he protects Kane for England rather than how England keeps Kane safe for him. . Southgate has been accused of being too nice in the past, but when the nice guy bares his teeth it has more effect. He was right to draw the line.

MURRAY WON THE RIGHT TO KEEP TRYING

I was never a huge fan of Jimmy Connors when he was in his prime. I didn’t like the contemptuous way he swept Ken Rosewall in the Wimbledon men’s singles final in 1974. I was happy when Arthur Ashe beat him the following year.

I always preferred Bjorn Borg back then. But long after that, when Connors was in his thirties, I learned to love him. In 1990, it was as if his career had failed. He played three tournaments and lost quickly in all of them. He had various injuries. But then he played the 1991 US Open, and on his 39th birthday, he beat 24-year-old Aaron Krickstein in five sets in a game that lasted four hours and 41 minutes.

He beat Paul Haarhuis in the last eight to reach the semi-finals, where he lost to Jim Courier, but the theatricality of those matches, his punches, his screams, his determination, the way he refused to s ‘bow to his age or the youth of his opponents, made me admire more than I ever admired him in his prime.

Andy Murray has given so much to tennis over the past 15 years and he owes him some wild cards

Andy Murray has given so much to tennis over the past 15 years and he owes him some wild cards

So when former Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander scorned Andy Murray’s return last week after his loss to Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros, he suggested he shouldn’t take any jokers that could be used by young players and told him to pack them up, I couldn’t have disagreed more.

For starters, Murray has given tennis so much over the past 15 years that the game owes him a few wildcards. Just six weeks ago, Murray beat Alex Zverev in straight sets at the Cincinnati Masters. Zverev went on to reach the US Open men’s singles final last month.

Of course Murray is 33, has had hip surgery and his best days are behind him. Maybe he has a 1991 US Open Connors left. Maybe not. But I respect his right to keep trying.

ONLY MAKE A SCENE FORCES REAL CHANGE

San Diego Loyal was leading Phoenix Rising 3-1 as half-time approached a play-off in the USL Championship last week when one of the loyal players, Collin Martin, alleged he was subject to homophobic abuse by an opponent.

Another Loyal player had been the victim of racist abuse the week before, so this time, rather than continue, Loyal coach Landon Donovan backed his team’s decision to forgo the game.

“Come on, man, don’t make a big scene,” Phoenix coach Rick Schantz told Donovan. Sadly, history tells us that making a big scene is the only way things will change. If it happened here it would have more of an impact than taking a knee before kickoff.

Landon Donovan was right to make a scene on allegations of homophobic abuse during their match

Landon Donovan was right to make a scene on allegations of homophobic abuse during their match

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