Gareth Southgate underlined the importance of discipline off the pitch after Leicester’s James Maddison dashed his weak hopes of making the England squad for Euro 2020 by attending a party that violated Covid protocols -19.
Although Southgate has refused to criticize Maddison after Brendan Rodgers ditched midfielder, Ayoze Pérez and Hamza Choudhury for Leicester’s loss to West Ham last Sunday, he doesn’t want anything that will hurt his side’s preparations this summer.
The England manager has little time for indiscipline after facing various crimes last fall, 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 went smoothly.
“Leicester handled the situation brilliantly and they have a huge game on Sunday. [the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton], so I don’t think I should talk about specifics, ”Southgate said. “We had problems ourselves in the fall. It’s always very difficult for the coaches. I compare it to March where we arrived without drama. It’s a much better environment to prepare for football. We just had to make decisions about football.
“When we entered the tournament in Russia, we had few distractions. This is something I told the players about after the fall. In the fall, the discipline off the pitch and on the pitch created the biggest problems for us and kept us from making it to the Nations League semi-finals. It still bores me when I watch this programming: Italy, Spain, Belgium, France.
“As summer approaches, we need to make sure we get to camp giving ourselves the best chance to focus on football and that helps create a calmer environment for everyone to participate in the tournament. “
It was bad timing for Maddison given he missed a chance to shine past Southgate, who was at London Stadium to see another of his attacking midfielders, Jesse Lingard, score twice for West Ham. As summer approaches, time is running out for those on the sidelines of the squad to get the manager’s attention.
Likewise, Southgate, who met the first two Nationwide Mutual Respect Award winners on Tuesday, acknowledges injuries will strike his team before the end of the season. West Ham’s Declan Rice is fighting to be fit for the tournament after a knee injury, although Southgate is optimistic the midfielder will be ready.
“We are in contact with the club,” Southgate said. “I didn’t see him on Sunday. There are very strict rules about where you can and can’t be. The club are optimistic he will be back for their run-in.
As speculation mounted over Harry Kane’s future at Tottenham, Southgate said it would be difficult to continue talking about transfers out of the England side to the Euros. “There is what everyone would like and there is a reality that whatever we say there will always be conversations,” he said. “I would be a bloody hypocrite because I put a transfer request in [at Aston Villa] on the eve of Euro 2000. I know I am a hypocrite in many areas, but I have to make sure I don’t get shot.
“But I was just as determined to play well. It was no distraction for me. Discussions will continue in the background and I don’t imagine any clubs or players would want agents during this time. If you talk to the players, they want these things to happen in the background.
“I’m practical on these things, I know there is a reality, the players are mature enough to deal with this. I think it’s actually more difficult when you’re at a club, you’re back in a preseason, and you’ve got players who are in a situation where, “Are they leaving or not aren’t they leaving? I think it’s a lot more complicated for everyone because no one is really sure what they’re going to be working with. They will be entirely focused on England.