Southgate won’t tell Bellingham to change after midfielder’s punishment

Estimated read time 4 min read

Gareth Southgate has said he will not take the emotion out of Jude Bellingham’s game after Uefa punished the midfielder for his lewd celebration against Slovakia with a €30,000 fine (£25,400) and a suspended one‑match ban that leaves him free to play in England’s quarter-final against Switzerland.

Bellingham was investigated after being shown on television kissing his right hand and making a crotch-grabbing action after his ­spectacular stoppage-time goal kept England in the Euros. The 21-year-old said it was “an inside joke gesture towards some close friends who were at the game” and in no way aimed at the Slovakia bench, but he has been sanctioned after Uefa’s control, ethics and disciplinary body found him guilty of “violating the basic rules of decent conduct”.

The probationary period lasts for one year and is a reminder for Bellingham to stay calm against Switzerland. Southgate, though, has not felt the need to talk to the Real Madrid star about his discipline.

“I haven’t spoken with him,” England’s manager said. “I think it’s a common-sense decision. Clearly it’s an unprecedented moment in someone’s life to score a goal like that in the 96th minute. I don’t know how I’d have reacted if that was me, at his age as well.

“I’m just so mindful of everything he’s achieving and at that age – or any age – nobody is going to be perfect. You are at times going to react emotionally and without that emotion I don’t think you have the type of player he is. I think he deals with everything so well.”

Southgate, who will mark 100 games in charge of England in ­Düsseldorf on Saturday evening, said he was not concerned about Switzerland ­trying to provoke Bellingham. “Jude is an incredible boy to work with,” he said. “The maturity that he has, how he deals with everything, the ability to impact games in the most important moments.

“I have a really good relationship with him. But there’s a spotlight on him and I think he knows I’m there to support him. I’m so pleased with how he responded in the last game to a couple of quieter games, which in his world became a crisis. He’s super-motivated to help us win tomorrow.”

Luke Shaw in trainingView image in fullscreen

England are expected to switch to a back three against Switzerland, who breezed past Italy in the last 16. Ezri Konsa is poised to replace the suspended Marc Guéhi in central defence, Kieran Trippier is set to move over to play at right wing-back and Bukayo Saka could play as a left wing-back.

Saka could also be an option on the right if Southgate makes a surprise decision to start Luke Shaw on the left. Shaw has been out for almost five months with a hamstring injury and the manager is confident that the left-back will not have a setback.

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“We’re not concerned that he would break down but there’s obviously a decision regarding match sharpness and how quickly you can adjust to that intensity of the cauldron of the tournament,” he said. “But we’re happy with his progress.”

Southgate, who said he had no regrets over not selecting another left-back, has had to use the right-footed Trippier in Shaw’s place. “That balance is something that has been difficult for us,” he said. “But Kieran has given such high-level performances, defended so well. Such a great leader, such a super communicator on the pitch. The ability to talk and help others on the pitch is so underestimated and is a slightly disappearing art.”

Bellingham is one of five England players, with Kobbie Mainoo, Trippier, Phil Foden and Conor Gallagher, who are one booking from a ban. Southgate backed his side to make the right decisions in the heat of battle.

Part of the focus is on improving England’s attacking, although this has been a low-scoring tournament. Harry Kane, who has scored twice in four games, believes poor playing surfaces in Germany are partly to blame. “The pitches haven’t been ideal,” he said. “That makes a big difference because it slows the game down. It was something I spoke to the guys about before the tournament because I experienced similar in the Bundesliga.

“Coming from the Premier League, that was probably one of the surprises I had with Bayern last season, the standard of the pitches. It’s not digging anyone out, the groundsmen are trying to do their best job possible. They’re [just] not quite up to the quality in different competitions or different leagues.It’s not an excuse because everyone has to deal with it.”


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