Pickford and Bowen launch defence of England and Southgate

Estimated read time 4 min read

England’s players have come out fighting after a barrage of criticism, with Jordan Pickford throwing support behind Gareth Southgate and Jarrod Bowen shrugging off Gary Lineker calling out the display against Denmark.

Southgate, who is expected to tweak personnel rather than play a new system against Slovenia on Tuesday, has had his tactics come under fire from television pundits and former professionals after England’s first two matches. There is also unease at Luke Shaw, the squad’s only left-back, being unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to face Slovenia after he missed training again on Saturday.

Within the camp, though, there is a determination to project calm and unity. Bowen pointed out that England are top of Group C with four points, leaving them in a good position to reach the last 16 in first place, and he dismissed Lineker, who was speaking on The Rest is Football podcast, using foul language to analyse the insipid 1-1 draw with Denmark.

“I didn’t know it was as strong as that,” the West Ham winger said. “I thought his podcast might be a little bit more PG. But I wasn’t aware of that. I didn’t know he said that.”

Pickford would hammer home the sense of a squad rallying around Southgate. “Everyone is behind the manager,” England’s goalkeeper said. “Everything we do in training and the meetings we have, he delivers them brilliantly for us and gets us the right gameplan. We weren’t perfect against Denmark, but that is a good feeling because we know we can improve. We know we have more to give in each game so to be on four points with a lot of improvement to come isn’t a bad feeling.”

Bowen, who talked about not looking for negative comments on social media, repeatedly spoke about the harsh words from pundits such as Lineker and Alan Shearer. “They’re more than entitled to speak about the games,” he said. “They’ve played for their country, they’ve played at a high level. It’s a major competition, it’s got everyone speaking. We know we can get better.

“But the sign of a really good side is when you’re not playing well you make sure you don’t lose. We’re sat here with four points. There’s a lot of noise, a lot of uproar, as if we’re sat here with two defeats and bottom of the table. But the reality is we’re top of the table with lots of confidence going into the last group game where we know we need to win.”

Jarrod Bowen reacts during the game against DenmarkView image in fullscreen

Bowen revealed England had not trained with a different system since facing Denmark, meaning there is unlikely to be a switch to a back three.

Southgate is likely to make minor alterations, with Trent Alexander-Arnold expected to lose his place in central midfield. Adam Wharton, Kobbie Mainoo and Conor Gallagher are in contention to replace him, although there have been calls for Jude Bellingham to play in a deeper role. As for the lack of balance on the left, Southgate could respond by starting Anthony Gordon instead of Phil Foden.

Another worry is Southgate saying that England, who will clinch top spot if they beat Slovenia, were not in the right physical condition to press Denmark and Serbia.

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“It is short preparation [times] from the games and getting the recovery right and preparing for the next game,” Bowen said. “Our preparation started today. Straight back on the grass today. Ready for Tuesday.

“We’ve got a lot of top players who understand the information and can take it on board and put it into practice. There’s a lot of meetings.

“Every game we play, there’s a lot of preparation going into it, with the ball, without the ball. Then you go out on the training pitch and do it. We have to do that again going into Tuesday.”

England have made a habit of struggling in their second game of major tournaments. They were criticised after drab draws with Scotland at Euro 2020 and the USA at the 2022 World Cup.

“We are fine, we are chilled, it is tournament football,” Pickford said. “We have the same points after two games as the last two tournaments and I would say we are calm. The outside noise is that we have to perform come Tuesday but there is no need to panic. We haven’t peaked yet. The narrative is going to change when we start peaking but for now it is all about Tuesday.”

Source: theguardian.com

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