‘England can’t afford to mismanage massive talents’ – Neville

‘England can’t afford to mismanage massive talents’ – Neville

England “cannot afford to mismanage” their “massive talents” said Gary Neville after another underwhelming performance resulted in a 0-0 draw with Slovenia.

The Three Lions go into the last 16 as Group C winners – but they only managed two goals in a group where only one team won a game.

Jude Bellingham netted to earn an opening 1-0 victory over Serbia, with Harry Kane then scoring in a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

Manager Gareth Southgate’s team selection has been questioned during the Euros and it remained a key issue in Cologne on Tuesday.

“England have Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, Kobbie Mainoo, Phil Foden – massive, massive talents and we cannot afford to mismanage them,” said former England defender Neville on ITV.

Assessing the squad’s young midfield and forward options, Neville added: “We are the only country in the world who continually ask, ‘where can these players fit?’.”

Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou, watching for ITV, said: “Your nature as a coach is to ease them [young players] into things, but every now and then there is young player that comes along that just smashes the door down and you have got to let them go through.

“I am sure 12 months ago Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Cole Palmer were not in his top-40 players for this Euros – they could end up being the key players.”

England started the first two games with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in central midfield. Conor Gallagher replaced him against Slovenia, before being withdrawn at half-time for Mainoo.

Southgate’s side were seen by many as joint favourites with France before the tournament began, but performances have not matched expectations.

“I think all of the England supporters are worried with what they’re seeing,” said ex-England defender Conor Coady on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We wanted this to be the game where England arrived on this huge stage and say: ‘England are finally here!’

“We haven’t seen that. There was nothing in the game to suggest that. There were a few half-chances and the bright cameo from Cole Palmer, but aside from that it was more of the same.”

England will face a third-placed team on Sunday, potentially the Netherlands.

Leicester centre-back Coady said: “When you get through the group you then have that moment of ‘now it gets really tough’.

“It is now or never. If you don’t do it right then you could be sat there in the dressing room come Sunday with your plane ticket home the next day.”

England rank 17th out of 24 teams for the amount of shots taken in this tournament – 29 – and 19th for expected goals – 2.26.

“If we are honest, we didn’t get the performance what England fans are looking for,” said former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BBC Match of the Day.

“I think most fans have left this stadium with more questions than answers.”

Who should come into the team?

Several of England’s exciting young talents have been named on the bench for the opening three games: Chelsea‘s free-scoring forward Palmer, Newcastle winger Anthony Gordon, Manchester United teenager Mainoo and Crystal Palace’s central midfielder Adam Wharton.

Speaking after the game, Gordon said: “I won’t lie to you, it’s frustrating because I want to play, every player here does. It’s difficult because we’ve got so many good players.

“Watching from the side-line, any game at any level is hard because you want to make an impact. I felt I did when I came on. I tried to get at people, be direct and cause problems in the few minutes I got.”

“I’m certain that Kobbie Mainoo will start in the next game,” said Neville.

“He [Southgate] thought that Conor Gallagher might be an option because of his energy, but we need someone in there that can get us playing and Mainoo does that.

“Adam Wharton could do that too.”

Former Lionesses striker Ellen White, on BBC Match of the Day, said: “Nothing fazed the young substitutes when they came on. Kobbie Mainoo, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon all looked like they just wanted to showcase what they could do.

“They wanted to show their energy, show their flair, make things happen. We haven’t really seen that in the first two games especially. You felt excited when they were getting on the ball and you want to see that in the next game.”

Another talking point has been England not having a fit natural left-back. Luke Shaw has not yet been able to play as he returns from injury, with Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier, a right-footed and versatile full-back, occupying the role for the entire group stage.

Kyle Walker has played on the right, with a third right-back in Alexander-Arnold featuring in midfield for the first two games before being dropped.

“I think that it would be brilliant to see [winger Bukayo] Saka at left-back, but I think Gareth won’t do that,” said Neville.

“What you may get him to do is put Kyle as left-back and put Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is a brilliant user of the ball on the right-hand side, on the right.”

‘Remove a bit of the emotion’

England fans booed their own team at the end, with some cups being thrown in the direction of Southgate.

Australian Postecoglou said: “When there’s such a strong association with what the national football team represents in so many ways, and when you don’t have success, there’s always going to be a love-hate relationship.

“Everyone talks about history and the group that win something will leave that behind.

“It is natural to feel hurt when criticism comes your way.”

Former England women’s international Izzy Christiansen said: “There are a lot of England fans left confused and uncertain after that. But, the good old cliche of ‘it’s tournament football’ still stands.

“England are still right in it and one of the massive positives is the substitutes, and the other is that England still have one other game to play.

“I think the emotion needs to be taken out of the situation. A lot of the players have spoken about the idea of doing the nation proud, but that will come if the performances improve and you get it right on the pitch.

“Remove a bit of the emotion and focus on what’s next.”

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