South­gate warns squad to toe the line

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

Eng­land will not ad­vance as a team if the off-field be­hav­ior of its play­ers con­tin­ues to cause dis­trac­tions, new man­ager Gareth South­gate said on Thursday.

South­gate found him­self deal­ing with a me­dia firestorm last month when it emerged that cap­tain Wayne Rooney and other play­ers had stayed up late drink­ing on a night off dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break.

While South­gate is re­luc­tant to im­pose dra­co­nian rules, he said Eng­land can­not hope to em­u­late teams like the all-con­quer­ing New Zealand rugby squad if its off-pitch be­hav­ior is counter-pro­duc­tive.

“I think if you look at top sports teams, New Zealand’s All Blacks are one of the best ex­am­ples over the years,” South­gate said at Wem­b­ley.

“The play­ers are in­volved in that, be­cause you are giv­ing them own­er­ship and ac­count­abil­ity.

“And if they want to be on top, which I be­lieve they do, they have got to rec­og­nize what are the things that are go­ing to help us achieve that and what are the things that are go­ing to de­tract from that.

“If we think we are good enough to take on the best in the world with­out do­ing ev­ery­thing right along the way, then good luck with that.”

Rooney, 31, apol­o­gized after he was pic­tured look­ing worse for wear as he posed for pho­to­graphs with peo­ple at­tend­ing a wed­ding at the Eng­land team ho­tel.

The Manch­ester United striker branded me­dia cov­er­age of the in­ci­dent “dis­grace­ful”, but South­gate said it is in the play­ers’ in­ter­ests to keep them­selves out of the head­lines.

“Where I will be clear is that there is a level of ex­pec­ta­tion when you are with Eng­land,” he said.

“We talk about pres­sure and we spend most of our time try­ing to re­lieve it.

“So if we put our­selves in po­si­tions where we are go­ing to in­crease that pres­sure, it is not in­tel­li­gent.”

‘Feisty opin­ions’

South­gate, 46, was ap­pointed Eng­land man­ager last week on a four-year con­tract after fill­ing in for four games in the wake of Sam Al­lardyce’s pre­ma­ture de­par­ture fol­low­ing a news­pa­per st­ing.

His aim is to im­prove the for­tunes of a side that last reached a ma­jor tour­na­ment semi­fi­nal at Euro 96, when South­gate was on the team, and which has not won a knock­out match since the 2006 World Cup.

South­gate was the only man in­ter­viewed for the job, but Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Glenn dis­missed sug­ges­tions he had been given an easy ride.

“It was re­ported as a ‘fire­side chat’, but it was any­thing but,” said Glenn, who flanked South­gate along with FA tech­ni­cal direc­tor Dan Ash­worth as the new man­ager was pre­sented to the me­dia.

“It started off with a re­view of, ‘OK, go through the last four games. What have you learned?’

“And there were also some pretty feisty opin­ions from the more tech­ni­cal (soc­cer) peo­ple in the room about some things.

“That was a good ex­am­ple of say­ing, ‘OK, do Gareth’s pow­ers of anal­y­sis stand up to scru­tiny?’

“Sec­ondly, and as Gareth has said him­self, think­ing cor­rectly un­der pres­sure.”

South­gate be­gins his full­time ten­ure with a friendly against Ger­many in Dort­mund on March 22.

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