South­gate warns Eng­land play­ers over off-field dis­ci­pline

Arse­nal play­maker Ca­zorla out for 3 months

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate

Gareth South­gate be­gan his ten­ure as Eng­land’s per­ma­nent coach with a mes­sage to his play­ers: Act like elite sports­men or for­get about com­pet­ing with the world’s best.

The last time Eng­land’s play­ers were on in­ter­na­tional duty for games against Scot­land and Spain, Wayne Rooney was pic­tured look­ing bleary-eyed at a wed­ding re­cep­tion at the team ho­tel while other play­ers re­port­edly went on a night out that in­volved a 200-mile (320-kilo­me­tre) round trip.

No rules were bro­ken as the play­ers were of­fi­cially off that night, but there has been crit­i­cism of their offfield dis­ci­pline and ques­tions asked about whether they are lead­ing the life­style of elite ath­letes.

Dis­ci­pline was high on the agenda for South­gate in his first news conference since be­ing given the job on a full-time ba­sis, and the new coach said it would be wrong of him to “read any riot acts” and “lay down the law.”

There was a gen­tle re­minder, how­ever, that Eng­land’s play­ers need to act re­spon­si­bly and change their off-field cul­ture if the team is to chal­lenge for ma­jor ti­tles. Eng­land’s one and only tro­phy re­mains the 1966 World Cup and the team has per­formed poorly in re­cent tour­na­ments.

“If we think we are good enough to play the best teams in the world and give our­selves a slight hand­i­cap on the way, good luck with that,” said South­gate, show­ing there’s a no-non­sense side to one of the sup­posed “nice guys” of English soc­cer.

“The key is,” he added, “we want to de­velop an elite team. We want to be a world-class team. Every as­pect of our train­ing and prep has to work to­wards that.”

There is set to be a re­view of what play­ers do in their down-time while on in­ter­na­tional duty.

“Fun­da­men­tal to that,” South­gate said, “is how are we go­ing to be phys­i­cally at our very best to per­form lead­ers in that group.

“Wayne has played an im­por­tant part for Eng­land up to this point. I’m sure he will do in the fu­ture, but we have to de­velop oth­ers.”

One day into his job as Eng­land’s full-time soc­cer coach, South­gate will fully ap­pre­ci­ate there is far more to the role than train­ing and pick­ing 11 play­ers to go out on the field for matches.

Aside from the play­ers’ off-the­field cul­ture, South­gate was quizzed about the sex abuse scan­dal en­gulf­ing the English game, in­clud­ing whether his em­ployer - the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion - has a grip on the is­sue and whether he would en­cour­age play­ers to come for­ward with their own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences.

Soc­cer took a back seat, which is some­thing South­gate may have to get used to. It also demon­strated the de­mand­ing and wide-rang­ing na­ture of the role.

“I’m in a po­si­tion where the com­ments I make, the opin­ions I have are go­ing to be re­ported a lot more widely and there’s a great re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with that,” South­gate said. “That’s some­thing I’m com­fort­able with. It’s im­por­tant in this role to show lead­er­ship.

“There’s a need to be a good coach, a good teacher ... but lead­er­ship is fun­da­men­tal in what we do here.” Arse­nal play­maker Santi Ca­zorla will have surgery on his right an­kle and be out for about three months, rob­bing the team of its cre­ative in­flu­ence in cen­tral mid­field.

The Spain in­ter­na­tional will un­dergo an op­er­a­tion in Swe­den next week, Arse­nal said yes­ter­day, af­ter the an­kle showed no im­prove­ment dur­ing a pe­riod of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Ca­zorla has been out since 19 Oc­to­ber.

In Ca­zorla’s ab­sence, Arse­nal has won two of its five Premier League games and drawn the other three. The team lacks a re­place­ment with the same tech­nique and vi­sion to play in one of the two cen­tral-mid­field po­si­tions.

Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger said last week that Ca­zorla was a big loss be­cause he was “im­por­tant to our tech­ni­cal sta­bil­ity in the team, to the qual­ity of our de­ci­sion-mak­ing and to our build-up from deep mid­field.”

Ca­zorla dam­aged knee lig­a­ments at about the same stage last sea­son and ended up be­ing out for more than five months.

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