Fresh start for England as Keane says Southgate has ‘nasty streak’
ENGLAND’S World Cup qualifying match against Malta tomorrow will signal a fresh start for the national team after a difficult few months, defender John Stones said yesterday.
England suffered a humiliating round of 16 loss to Iceland in the European Championship and last week parted company with manager Sam Allardyce following an undercover newspaper sting.
A late Adam Lallana goal gave England a 1-0 win over Slovakia in their opening Group F qualifier, Allardyce’s only game in charge.
“Malta will be a big occasion for us personally, back on home turf, new manager and exciting times for us as players as well,” Stones told reporters.
“It’s a different chapter and a new challenge ahead of us.
“We all want to come here and win things, didn’t happen in the summer it’s almost a fresh start leading to the World Cup and take it game by game in the group stages, and two good wins will put us in a good spot in the group.”
The 22-year-old said the experience of players such as captain Wayne Rooney had been vital.
“They are massive for me personally and the young boys coming through, giving us pointers in games, situations and when things are not going well,” Stones added.
“They have been there and been through those experiences before and it’s kind of new for us in some respects.
“They are massive for the group. It’s great we all get along. We have a great team spirit about us.”
The Manchester City defender also backed interim boss Gareth Southgate to get the job permanently.
“He knows all the players in the set-up. He’s been great for the U21’s when I’ve been there, he’s got silverware in the summer,” Stones added.
“A new chapter for him and a new challenge for him, he’ll be relishing it, coming here working and trying to do his best in the four games and whatever happens after that it is down to the FA.”
Southgate also came in for praise from an unlikely source – Roy Keane.
In a rare endorsement, the Republic of Ireland assistant boss warned that Southgate has a hidden nasty streak, despite his “good-guy” persona.
“I like Gareth,” said Keane, who has spent the last three years working alongside Martin O’Neill.
“He is a good guy. I remember he tried to break my leg in a cup semifinal. Luckily, I got out of the way (Keane was sent off for stamping on Southgate).
“Besides that, I try not to hold that against him. I bumped into him two or three weeks ago, watching Barnsley and Reading, then the other night I bumped into him at Everton and Palace, so he has gone up in the world… He is one of the good guys.”
The former Middlesbrough manager will manage England for their next four World Cup qualifiers as the FA seeks to find a long-term replacement for Allardyce and Keane reckons he’s much tougher than people believe.
“There is only one way to find out if he is up to the challenge of managing England. He’s got that opportunity now. There are always pluses and minuses to any job.
“The media have asked, ‘Does he deserve it?’ He did well at Middlesbrough, so we’ll see how he does.
“Is he tough enough to do it? I haven’t seen him work at club level or international level, but for Gareth to be around the game for as long as he has been, he must have that (nasty) streak in him. Obviously, he is not as nasty as me …” – Reuters/The Independent