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