Jack Grealish defends boss Gareth Southgate over England’s poor Nations League results
Jack Grealish believes the criticism of Gareth Southgate this summer was ‘very harsh’ given the success he has had in his time as England manager.
With the nation still searching for a first senior men’s trophy since 1966, the Three Lions have never been closer to matching Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroics than in the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England on a run to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago that was as surprising as it was unforgettable, before bringing the country within a penalty shoot-out of Euro 2020 glory last summer.
Gareth Southgate (pictured) has been defended by Jack Grealish following criticism this summer
Southgate came under fire after watching his England side endure poor results in the Nations League
But the former defender has never strayed far from criticism and came under fire after a challenging four-game Nations League slog in June ended with a 4-0 Molineux thrashing of unheralded Hungary.
“I think it was tough,” fan favorite Grealish said of the reaction to Southgate.
‘We reached the final last year and then the Hungary game (we lost 1-0) at the start of the last camp, I think before the last time we lost a game over 90 minutes was maybe Belgium in November 2020 or something.
So I think it’s very tough, especially (as you know) the WC and the EC, how well the team did and the manager himself.
‘I thought it was tough of course, but sometimes that’s what you get if you’re English. I’ve certainly had my fair share!’
Grealish, the £100m man, knows a thing or two about control.
The 27-year-old was already in the spotlight before last summer’s big-money move from Aston Villa to Manchester City, but that only intensified things for the attacking midfielder.
Grealish scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Wolves, with Kevin De Bruyne suggesting afterwards that England players like him are unfairly targeted because of the nation’s mentality of criticizing their own.
The Belgium international’s view was put to Grealish, who smiled and told the reporter: ‘I want to ask you, do you?’
When the reporter said he agreed, the England international said with a laugh: ‘I don’t know – I want to be friends with you all!
‘I can obviously see where he’s coming from a little bit.
– But I think that’s how it is in this country, especially if you’re myself, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, which wins trophies every single year.
‘And it’s clear when I have the price tag on my head that I have, people want to talk. It’s just something I have to (get on with).
‘I keep coming back to it and saying embrace it and that’s really part of it. But yeah, I can see where he’s coming from a little bit.’
Grealish seems to be taking everything – both good and bad – in his stride, which he will continue to do in England’s crunch Nations League double-header.
The Three Lions will be relegated if they lose Friday’s San Siro clash against Italy, before facing old foes Germany on Monday – the final game in their final camp before the World Cup gets underway in November.
“I think for us it’s something we’re obviously aware of, but something that we all embrace,” Grealish said.
– In particular, I do not want to speak for the manager, but I am sure that he has some players who are 100 percent to go to the World Cup, and then of course there are some places and numbers that are still up for grabs. We’re just all training together as usual.
‘We have two games now which will be very tough opposition and it really is like your pre-World Cup camp.
‘We said before the EC that we had a few good weeks of training sessions, good friendlies and we won’t get that this time.
‘But everyone is in the same boat, so it’s something we have to embrace and look forward to.’
Grealish has been quick to endear himself to England fans since making his debut in September 2020, but the fact that 11 of his 23 caps have come as a substitute underlines the work required to step up.
“I would love to be (starter), but then again, I know the impact I can bring off the bench,” he added. ‘I don’t want to sit here and say, “this is what I am – someone who just makes it up”.
‘I started a match in the EC and got an assist, which I loved.
“The manager is the manager and if he and his staff decide to play me I will give everything and also if I am on the bench I am ready to come on as an impact sub.”