By Tom Gott | Nov 12, 2020, 10:30 AM GMTGareth Southgate’s treatment of Jack Grealish has attracted criticism | Robin Jones/Getty Images
England manager Gareth Southgate has joked that he has to keep talking about Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount ‘for the memes’, amid pressure for the boss to hand Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish a start in a competitive international game.
Despite being one of the Premier League’s top creators last season, Grealish had to wait until September for his England debut, but he is yet to hold down a regular spot in the team.
He managed 14 minutes of the 0-0 draw with Denmark and was an unused substitute against both Belgium and Denmark in the Nations League.
Grealish is still waiting for a real chance to shine | Michael Regan/Getty Images
That has prompted rumours that Southgate has something against Grealish, and the boss didn’t exactly help himself when he managed to turn a question about the Villa man into praise for Mount during the last international break.
This time around, Southgate was asked whether it was time for Grealish to start a competitive game for England, but the manager took the chance to continue the jokes about Mount for a little while longer.
“I suppose on that you’re referring to Mason, whose only crime is not to be Jack at the moment,” Southgate joked (via The Telegraph).
Mount has played down talk of a rivalry | Robin Jones/Getty Images
“I’m also aware I should talk about Mason because then it keeps the memes going of me talking about Mason. So we have got to fulfil all those requirements just to keep the Villa fans happy, especially. What would they be able to do on social media if they didn’t have that opportunity? So, yes, of course I’m aware Jack’s playing well.”
Southgate did go on to give a proper answer to the situation, insisting that the England coaches are ‘not blind to a good player’ in Grealish.
Both Grealish and Mount are expected to start Thursday’s friendly against Ireland, but instead of both players competing for the same position, the Chelsea man is expected to be deployed in a slightly deeper role – similar to his recent position at club level.
Another player competing for minutes in the heart of midfield is 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, who was a surprise choice to replace the injured James Ward-Prowse in Southgate’s senior squad.
Huge [email protected] pic.twitter.com/KIbYVx9e6y
— Jude Bellingham (@BellinghamJude) November 11, 2020
“It’s always interesting to see the reaction when we select a player, because people are immediately talking about other players without understanding why we’ve called Jude up,” Southgate said.
“We could flippantly say, ‘Well, he’s playing for a massive club and he’s playing Champions League football’, but there’s actually a bit more to it than that. Positionally he’s playing in a two-man midfield at Dortmund, whether that’s a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-3. So, he’s in the exact position that we lost a player in James.”
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