South­gate irked by Zaha row

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate has taken is­sue with Crys­tal Palace chair­man Steve Parish’s views on the in­ter­na­tional tug-of-war in­volv­ing Ivory Coast winger Wil­fried Zaha.

Zaha was capped twice by Eng­land, in 2012 and 2013, but switched al­le­giances to Ivory Coast, the coun­try of his birth, late last year and has since made six ap­pear­ances for them.

He scored a fine solo goal in Ivory Coast’s 2-0 friendly win over Russia last week, prompt­ing Parish to tweet: “Never wa­vered in my be­lief of @wil­friedzaha, why is this goal not for @Eng­land?”

“I’m not sure it’s help­ful as a com­ment. I wouldn’t com­ment on his de­ci­sions,” South­gate told re­porters af­ter Eng­land’s 2-0 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing win over Lithua­nia at Wem­b­ley on Sun­day.

“I know the chair­man’s got quite a vo­cif­er­ous view on it. Steve’s an in­tel­li­gent guy who’s done a great job for that foot­ball club.”

South­gate, a for­mer Palace cap­tain, pre­vi­ously coached Zaha dur­ing his time as Eng­land Un­der-21s man­ager.

The Palace winger, 24, was the first player he watched af­ter be­ing con­firmed as Eng­land’s per­ma­nent man­ager last Novem­ber, but by then it was too late.

“I didn’t re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate there was this dis­ap­pear­ing egg timer on him go­ing to the Ivory Coast,” South­gate ad­mit­ted.

“I didn’t want to just pick him be­cause there was a chance that that might hap­pen. The first op­por­tu­nity I had as per­ma­nent man­ager, I did go and speak to him.”

De­spite his dis­ap­point­ment at miss­ing out on Zaha, South­gate says he is only in­ter­ested in play­ers who have a burn­ing de­sire to play for Eng­land.

“Any time you leave a player out of squads, you run the risk of them go­ing across to an­other coun­try,” he said. “But in the end I have to fo­cus on the play­ers that are des­per­ate to play for Eng­land.

“If you don’t feel that in­ter­nal, 100 per­cent pas­sion for play­ing for Eng­land, I’m not sure it’s for me to sell that to you. It should be your de­sire to do it. The in­her­ent de­sire to play for your coun­try is the most im­por­tant thing if we’re go­ing to be suc­cess­ful.

“Part of your iden­tity as a na­tional team has got to be pride in the shirt. So for me the com­mit­ment has to come from the player.” AFP

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