In­sep­a­ra­ble pair have let down so many at start of cru­cial sea­son

Fo­den and Green­wood need to learn fast to put the most im­por­tant campaign of their fledg­ling ca­reers back on track

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

There was a time when Eng­land play­ers from ri­val north­ern pow­er­houses could not stand the sight of each other. Steven Ger­rard, the for­mer Liver­pool cap­tain, re­called that he used to care­fully con­ceal his an­tipa­thy for Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand and “pre­tend” he liked the Manch­ester United pair when­ever they were on in­ter­na­tional duty.

Paul Sc­holes went as far as to sug­gest that the in­tense, tribal ri­valry be­tween United and Liver­pool play­ers dam­aged the prospects of Eng­land’s “golden gen­er­a­tion”.

“It was plainly ob­vi­ous that some of our lads didn’t like some of their boys and some of their lads didn’t like some of us,” the for­mer United mid­fielder said. “You can’t build a team or a spirit when that ri­valry is al­ways close to the sur­face. It was al­ways too big to get over.”

Club cliques and a mu­tual mis­trust or loathing were never go­ing to be an is­sue where Phil Fo­den and Ma­son Green­wood were con­cerned for Eng­land. The coun­try’s two bright­est young tal­ents may play on op­po­site sides of the Manch­ester di­vide, but theirs is a blos­som­ing friend­ship that Gareth South­gate, the Eng­land man­ager, and the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion saw very much as a pos­i­tive, and a marked de­par­ture from that era de­picted by Sc­holes.

They had crossed paths oc­ca­sion­ally in academy foot­ball, but both were acutely aware of each other’s stand­ing: Fo­den the jewel in Manch­ester City’s crown; Green­wood the most ex­cit­ing teenager United had nursed since Ryan Giggs. It was this time last year, though, that the seeds of their friend­ship re­ally be­gan to be sown.

The Eng­land Un­der-21 squad are dom­i­nated by play­ers from south­ern clubs, and Green­wood, given his first call-up for the Euro 2021 qual­i­fy­ing matches against Tur­key and Kosovo in Septem­ber last year, ended up room­ing with Fo­den. They hit it off im­me­di­ately and Fo­den was soon play­ing the role of big brother to a player only 16 months his ju­nior.

It was the lit­tle things that caught the at­ten­tion of FA of­fi­cials, and point to the pair’s close­ness. Af­ter a 3-0 win over Al­ba­nia last Novem­ber, Green­wood gave his first news­pa­per in­ter­view and Fo­den had de­lib­er­ately hung back to check ev­ery­thing went OK rather than rush on to the team bus and leave his friend to it.

Green­wood ap­pre­ci­ated the ges­ture. Speak to any­one within the Eng­land set-up now and they will you the pair are largely in­sep­a­ra­ble on in­ter­na­tional duty.

When Eng­land played Hol­land in Doet­inchem a few days af­ter that Al­ba­nia vic­tory, Green­wood and Fo­den took them­selves off for pan­cakes at a cafe, Pen­sion d’Oude Her­berg, and even wanted to hire bikes to ex­plore the lo­cal coun­try­side.

At the team ho­tel, they could be found mess­ing about on a For­mula One sim­u­la­tor game or chat­ting in their rooms. They have some com­mon in­ter­ests, but also recog­nise the huge ex­pec­ta­tion that sur­rounds them and know they can bounce off each other.

In that re­spect, it is why those who know Fo­den and Green­wood best will find their be­hav­iour in Ice­land hard to ra­tion­alise, given how level-headed the pair usu­ally are, and how se­ri­ous they are about their foot­ball.

Sure, they are young – Fo­den 20, Green­wood still a few weeks shy of his 19th birth­day – but the next sea­son is one of vast po­ten­tial and prom­ise for th­ese two supremely

They have com­mon in­ter­ests and recog­nise the huge ex­pec­ta­tion that sur­rounds them

gifted foot­ballers and this was a most un­for­tu­nate way to start it.

Fo­den was dropped from an Eng­land Un­der-19 match along with Jadon San­cho in 2018 af­ter the pair were late for a train­ing ses­sion,

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