Three Lions big­ger than a name, South­gate tells U-17s

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER

Gareth South­gate has re­minded Eng­land’s tri­umphant Un­der-17s that the Three Lions badge is more im­por­tant than the name on the back af­ter they at­tracted crit­i­cism for cel­e­brat­ing their vic­tory in In­dia by turn­ing their shirts back to front af­ter the fi­nal last month.

The play­ers re­ceived the tro­phy and cel­e­brated on the pitch af­ter their 5-2 win over Spain with the shirts back to front, prompt­ing the Match of the Day pun­dit and for­mer Liver­pool and Eng­land mid­fielder Danny Murphy to ask whether they were more in­ter­ested in self-pro­mo­tion.

Murphy, also a suc­cess­ful Eng­land ju­nior in­ter­na­tional in his time, said: “They’ve all turned their shirts around be­cause they want their names across their chests, so ev­ery­body across the world can see who they are.

“They’re all say­ing, ‘I’m a good young player com­ing through, look at me’, but that in it­self is what is wrong with so­ci­ety.”

Asked about Murphy’s com­ments South­gate pointed out that “young kids in a real mo­ment of ec­stasy” would not nec­es­sar­ily “think log­i­cally” about the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of their ac­tions. He said: “I think what we would hope in the fu­ture is that the Three Lions is the more im­por­tant thing. It’s the badge on the front of the shirt rather than the name on the back.

“I also un­der­stand at that mo­ment they’re not nec­es­sar­ily think­ing about that but I think it’s a good thing to talk to the young teams about mov­ing for­ward, that we’re build­ing for Eng­land and it’s about the team. It’s about win­ning to­gether and ex­pe­ri­ences to­gether. It’s not about build­ing up any one in­di­vid­ual.”

The Eng­land man­ager, whose side face Ger­many at Wem­b­ley on Fri­day, said that it was an is­sue that the coaches

of the var­i­ous age-group teams would dis­cuss when they next met at St George’s Park.

“I think that [in­di­vid­u­al­ity] is the na­ture of so­ci­ety a bit to­day isn’t it? It’s dif­fi­cult to know re­ally with­out ask­ing them [the play­ers]. I won­der why that was. I think some of the Un­der-20s [who won the World Cup] did it as well.

“It’s a bit gen­er­a­tional per­haps but I think a good mes­sage from na­tional coaches that we have dis­cussed is ‘Let’s make that point’. We don’t want to beat those kids with a stick be­cause of what they’ve done be­cause it’s a mo­ment to cel­e­brate but I think hu­mil­ity is re­ally im­por­tant. An im­por­tant trait for young play­ers is recog­nis­ing you’re part of some­thing big­ger. When you play for Eng­land that is an im­por­tant mes­sage.

“Ev­ery­body would have a dif­fer­ent view whether it mat­ters or not. I think it’s im­por­tant that whether it’s your club or your coun­try, the badge you play for is the im­por­tant thing.

“Ev­ery club and ev­ery na­tional team has had great play­ers be­fore and will have great play­ers in the fu­ture. If you’re go­ing to be a top player, be­ing self­less is im­por­tant.”

South­gate said that the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion be­lieved that Steve Cooper’s Un­der-17s squad had not only been out­stand­ing in their per­for­mances, as Murphy him­self had also said, but that they had also con­ducted them­selves im­pec­ca­bly in In­dia.

“I’m back to the ques­tion – ideally would they do that [turn their shirts around]? No. But also what they’ve done in a pos­i­tive way far out­weighs what they’ve done with that.”

South­gate at­tended Stoke City’s 2-2 draw with Le­ices­ter City ahead of prepa­ra­tions for Eng­land’s squad con­ven­ing on Mon­day. He said that he would play two dif­fer­ent sides in the game against Ger­many and then Brazil four days later. He said he was yet to make a de­ci­sion on his cap­tain but that he would do so be­fore the World Cup in Rus­sia next sum­mer.

“I will cer­tainly make a de­ci­sion be­fore the World Cup. I don’t know what we will do with the two games. It de­pends what hap­pens over the weekend as much as any­thing, re­ally. I have a pretty good idea in my mind of two teams I would like to see play. That wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be two com­pletely dif­fer­ent XIs but it would be silly not to have a look at as many of those play­ers as pos­si­ble hav­ing brought them into the team.”

He has se­lected the un­capped Tammy Abra­ham, Ruben Lof­tusCheek and Joe Gomez in the squad and ig­nored the likes of Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain and Daniel Stur­ridge in a con­certed at­tempt to give Eng­land’s suc­cess­ful younger gen­er­a­tions a chance.

“I don’t think any of our play­ers can feel com­fort­able that they’re a guar­an­teed se­lec­tion be­cause play­ers are emerg­ing all the time and we’re see­ing tech­ni­cally good play­ers,” South­gate said. “I took the job with the Un­der-21s be­cause my be­lief at the time was we had young play­ers who could play in a cer­tain way. I re­mem­ber be­ing in a meet­ing where some­one in the room said, ‘We were play­ing Hol­land at a cer­tain age group, so we knew they’d have more of the ball’. We said, ‘Hang on a minute, why should that be the case?’ This is what we have to af­fect.”

Unim­pressed: Gareth South­gate be­lieves the Un­der-17s should have kept their shirts the right way around

Top of the pile: The Eng­land Un­der-17s cel­e­brate win­ning the World Cup by turn­ing their shirts around and tak­ing selfies in In­dia

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