We will persist with dark arts to bring success, says Ward-Prowse
players are ready to ditch their nice-guy tags and turn to the dark arts in their attempt to transform from international wannabes into major tournament winners.
Gareth Southgate’s team struggled to overcome Iceland in the Nations League on Saturday, but secured a 1-0 win thanks to Birkir Bjarnason’s last-gasp penalty miss. Bjarnason’s blunder may have been influenced by the fact England midfielder James Ward-Prowse dug his heel into the penalty spot and held up the Iceland player’s kick. Rather than being condemned for his actions, Ward-Prowse was hailed a hero on social media by supporters who have become fed up with the national team being beaten by more streetwise opponents.
And it now seems England are ready to follow the win-at-all-costs mentality of Argentina, Germany, France, Italy and Spain as they prepare for next summer’s European Championship.
Asked whether he deliberately tried to dig up the penalty spot with his foot, Ward-Prowse replied: “It wasn’t any digging of the spot, it was more just delaying the penalty. It was a bit of a mad few minutes.
We’d just obviously scored what we thought was the winning goal and then we faced the penalty, so it was more a delaying tactic. Thankfully it went in our favour.”
The intervention split pundits Roy Keane and Ian Wright, with the former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United midfielder saying: “It’s cheating. I don’t like to see that.”
But Wright countered: “I don’t mind that from an England player, I like that devilment about him. If that happens in a major competition and England get something from it, I’m not going to complain.”
Delaying tactic: James Ward-Prowse digs up the penalty spot before Iceland’s kick
Asked whether England could benefit from employing the dark arts, Southampton’s Ward-Prowse added: “It’s something we can all take forward. At club level we have developed that ourselves as well and we’ve learnt a lot with that. It’s an important factor in the modern game.
“I think we maybe had the reputation of being a bit too nice and we have had to show a bit more aggression and a bit of that darker side in order to help us win games.”
Despite having to rely on Bjarnason’s miss to win, Ward-Prowse believes England showed they could cope with adversity after Kyle Walker was sent off while the game was still goalless.
“It was a really positive sign,” Ward-Prowse said. “The way the game went we knew it was going to be difficult. Everyone showed the grit needed to get a result.”
The Iceland game was the first Ward-Prowse had started for England and the 25-year-old insisted he had never given up hope of forcing his way into Southgate’s side.
“Not at all,” he said. “What gets you in the England squad is playing well for your club and that has been my main focus.”