Southgate praises much-changed England as Grealish eyes Belgium outing


Gareth Southgate paid tribute to an inexperienced England side after they claimed a 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland.

With a Nations League double-header against Belgium and Iceland on the horizon, the Three Lions boss left out the likes of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane at Wembley on Thursday evening.

Southgate instead went with a youthful team, with goalkeeper Nick Pope the oldest player at 28, while Jude Bellingham came on to make his England bow – becoming the third youngest debutant for the men’s team, after Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.

He was nevertheless treated to an impressive showing from his fringe players, whose march to victory never looked in doubt.

Southgate told ITV: “I was really pleased with the way the boys played. 

“[With] a lot of young players, a lot of inexperienced players, we used the ball very well, created a lot of chances [and] it could have been more comfortable if we’d taken some of those chances. But overall, very pleased. 

“I think we were a bit slow at the start but that’s understandable, it’s not a team that has had a lot of time to work together. 

“The longer they went on, some of the interplay, some of the play between our attacking 10s and our wing-backs in particular was very good, especially down this left side: Bukayo [Saka], Jack [Grealish] and then Mason [Mount]. I was very pleased.”

Grealish followed up an assist on his England debut with another on his second outing to take his tally to five goals and seven assists in 11 appearances for club and country this term.

12 – Jack Grealish has been involved in 12 goals in 11 appearances in all competitions for club and country so far this season, scoring five and assisting seven. Justified. #ENGIRL

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 12, 2020

It had been suggested that the 25-year-old was in a straight shootout with Mason Mount for a starting place in attacking midfield for the Three Lions but, after using both in the same team, Southgate dismissed that notion.

He added: “There are a lot of other players in the squad as well, so we’ve got great competition for places. 

“You saw them in two different roles today, they can both play in a few different roles, but I was pleased with the way we moved the ball.”

As for Grealish himself, he is hoping that his withdrawal just past the hour mark bodes well for involvement against Belgium next up.

“Who knows? That’s what I want to do, I want to play as much as possible and all I’ve got to do is try and impress the manager as much as I can,” the Aston Villa captain said. 

“Since I’ve come in he’s been brilliant with me on and off the pitch, speaking to me all the time, telling me what he wants me to do. 

“That’s what I’ve tried to do and fingers crossed.”

Grealish completed 89.7 per cent of 39 attempted passes, with 36 of those coming in Ireland’s half, while he combined with Mount on 17 occasions in total.

He continued: “I think coming here and training with these guys day in, day out for two weeks, it just steps up everything about your game, it especially has with mine. 

“Just watching the way Harry [Kane], Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling are day to day and how they train. 

“In training you learn off these guys as well, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’m trying to take as much as I can from them and I think it’s helped me.”



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