Gareth Southgate hints at front foot England as he accepts Scotland backlash

Gareth Southgate was asked if he was angry. No, he wasn’t.

He was asked if he was frustrated. No, he wasn’t.

Just a bit p*** off? No, not even that.

Considering the slightly curious nature of the isolation orders for Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, Southgate would have been excused for being angry, frustrated AND p*** off.

But in between fielding queries about the processes which will surely make Mount and Chilwell unavailable for the game against the Czech Republic, Southgate was on the front foot.

And the England manager knows that is how he and his players need to be, not just to secure the group win and a last-16 match at Wembley but to restore public confidence in the team.

Gareth Southgate has drawn criticism for his side’s performances, especially in attack

There is no doubt that took a hefty knock after the laboured, ponderous performance against the Scots.

Reading between Southgate’s careful lines, you suspect he knows the shackles need to come off against the Czechs.

England do not need a statement display … but it would be a mighty help.

The frustration of England supporters was audible in the stadium and, no doubt, in the pubs, clubs and living rooms across the country.

Southgate understands, declaring: “We’re playing for England, we’re at Wembley, we’re in a major tournament and we’ve got to cope with that, we’ve got to produce the football that gives the crowd the excitement they want, the results they want.

“I totally understand any criticism that comes my way. We understand the attention and we know we’ve got to improve on the performance we gave the other night to progress in the tournament further.

“We’ve got to play better and break down packed defences to be able to progress to the stages of this tournament that we want to be in.”

How far will England go at Euro 2020? Have your say below.

England were held to a goalless draw by Scotland at Wembley on Friday
England were held to a goalless draw by Scotland at Wembley on Friday

And while he is right to explain that the point against the Scots effectively qualified England for the knockout stages – hence he took few risks during the goalless draw – Southgate knows his much-vaunted array of striking talent needs to click in preparation for the sudden death phase.

No-one, of course, is as vaunted as Harry Kane and if there was one line of inquiry that did make Southgate angry, of any of those things, it was the suggestion the skipper is suffering some sort of form crisis.

“Harry has been our best player, our most influential player and our most important player for a long period of time,” Southgate bristled.

“His record is phenomenal and he is a hugely important figure for us.

“Harry, I’m sure, is going to be playing well and will have a big impact for us.”

There is clearly NO chance of Kane being replaced by Marcus Rashford or Dominic Calvert-Lewin – not now, not any time soon.

“It’s good that we have Dominic and Marcus who can play as nines in the team but I think they understand who our best number nine is.”

On the basis of the opening two games, they might not understand quite as fully as Southgate seems to think.

But it is to Southgate’s credit that he goes over the top in emphasising Kane’s importance to this team.

While Kane is a guaranteed starter, Southgate’s preparation and selection have been thrown into a spot of disarray by the Billy Gilmour Covid fallout.

But whatever line-up he settles for, Southgate has to ensure his players are more adventurous against the Czechs.

Instruct the full-backs to cross the halfway line, give more of a licence to the flair players, pass the ball from the back with more ambition, tell Kane he should not need to drop deep as often as he might think.

In other words, be as Southgate was when he had time to talk about the actual football on the eve of this match.

Be on the front foot.

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