Gareth Southgate has urged his young England side to remain calm as they seek to make history by beating Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
The players were greeted by hordes of flag-waving fans when they left their base at St George’s Park in Staffordshire on Saturday night, and the stage is set for 66,000 supporters to fill Wembley, but Southgate doesn’t want his team to be affected by the hype about the end of ’55 years of suffering ”.
The manager adopted a calm tone before facing a dangerous Italian side, saying he doesn’t plan to deliver a rousing speech in the locker room before kick-off, and believes his players need to muffle the noise s’ they want to give the country its first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
“I didn’t say much until the semi-final because I felt the team were totally prepared,” Southgate said.
“I normally assess where they are during the day. We usually have a set meeting in the morning and then I’ll talk to them before I leave the hotel.
“You’re two hours before the game at that point. You want the message to resonate, but it’s all about how you make players feel. We don’t need to exaggerate them. There will be enough energy and excitement around the stadium because of the occasion itself.
“We have to keep this calm that we have had throughout the month. We handled it very well. The game against Scotland, we were disappointed with the way it went, but it was a great opportunity for us. Germany was another, then the quarter and the semi-final. The players have done remarkably well and I’m sure they will do it again.
England, whose men’s side haven’t made a major final since 1966, enjoyed a home advantage during the tournament, having played most of their games at Wembley, and Southgate are proud of the connection. that his players have established with the fans.
“The support has been phenomenal and it makes a huge difference for the players,” he said.
“They feel the warmth, that connection and that energy in the stadium that makes it such a huge advantage to play at home. The players did an incredible job, first in the way they played and the results they got, but also in the way they represented themselves. We wanted the fans to be a part of it because they are important.
Southgate urged English fans not to boo the Italian national anthem.
“We always ask our fans to respect the opposition,” he said. “We would hope for the same when we travel and I know when our hymn is booed it inspires me a little more when I’m away from home.
“Whatever the intentions, there is a good chance that you will give more motivation to the opponent. “
England received a letter of support from Boris Johnson yesterday and the Prime Minister was joined in backing the team by the Queen, who praised their “spirit, commitment and pride”. The Queen recalled presenting the World Cup to England captain Bobby Moore in 1966.
The players were also treated to an audience with Tom Cruise on Friday night. The Hollywood star spoke to them on Facetime. “I was in a meeting watching videos from Italy but that’s another story,” Southgate said. “They had a really good week. Ed Sheeran, Tom Cruise – the life of an English footballer.
England are expected to remain unchanged from their semi-final win over Denmark on Wednesday, but midfielder Phil Foden is uncertain with an ankle injury.
Southgate said England is aware of how it has captured the nation’s imagination over the past month. “Of course, we are aware of the increased excitement and expectations,” he said. “It’s wonderful that the whole country seems to be really involved in this tournament. When you walk past people and they honk their horns and their flags fly on the backs of their cars, it’s hard not to notice.