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Southgate Out mob doing more to hurt England’s hopes than benching Jack Grealish, Oliver Holt says

It is the eve of the first game of the World Cup in Qatar and the team news of England has leaked. Jordan Pickford survived in goal because he can play a little. Marcus Rashford is right back and Raheem Sterling is left back. Jack Grealish and James Maddison take center stage.

Jadon Sancho is up front, Phil Foden is up front, Adel Taarabt, who was poached from Morocco and given special dispensation to play because he can’t defend to save his life, is up front. Harry Kane is up front, Bukayo Saka is up front and Grealish, who is good enough to fill two positions at once, is also up front.

That’s the short one, right. Go with the Dream Team. Don’t mess with worker drones like Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips, let alone Harry Maguire and John Stones. Throw caution to the wind, take off the shackles and let the talent shine. Let the best generation of players we’ve had since 1966 run free with the wind in their hair so they can bring that World Cup back. And nothing else will do.

Gareth Southgate's crowd wants nothing less than the shackles of the English stars

Gareth Southgate’s crowd wants nothing less than the shackles of the English stars

The Three Lions were unable to win any of their four Nations League games, resulting in criticism

The Three Lions were unable to win any of their four Nations League games, resulting in criticism

That’s what the Southgate Out crowd wants. Load the squad with every bit of attacking talent England has at their disposal as this is the age of icons and individualism and image. And everything else is dull and dull and careful and not what a brave manager would do.

And to hell with any semblance of poise or any thought that football is about a team that has to find a way to both keep goals out and score them. To hell with every nod to reality, to hell with every thought we might not be as good as the Southgate Out crowd thinks we are and hello to football fantasies in a La La Land of flawed imaginations.

That’s what the mob that attacked Southgate at Molineux wants. His disdain for his penchant for playing two defensive midfielders for England’s backline and what it sees as his stultifying caution about the cost of trophies is indisputable. The shame is that predictions of a World Cup failure this winter are about to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There's frustration with Jack Grealish's playing time, with fans wanting entertainment

There’s frustration with Jack Grealish’s playing time, with fans wanting entertainment

The Southgate Out crowd believe it was only the manager’s prudence that cost England consecutive wins at the World Cup and European Championship as apparently, despite having a side with only one, maybe two recognized world-class talents, England , would be different. have rolled to victory in both tournaments.

And they believe that only a win in Qatar will do justice to the crop of players Southgate has at their disposal. As a colleague of mine wrote earlier this week, “The brief but refreshing era of humility is over. Win a World Cup or else.’ And with the end of that humility, sadly, comes the return of the kind of pressure and heightened expectation that have made English football a subject of ridicule for so long.

The danger is that the ugly reaction to the defeat against Hungary broke a spell. One of Southgates’ greatest achievements was to make playing for England fun again, to ensure the players looked forward to England, not the ordeal of public and media humiliation that many among a previous generation feared. If they go to the World Cup with the fans on their backs, it doesn’t end well.

Kieron Dyer was part of that previous generation and he knows what’s coming. “When England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018, they went to that tournament with no expectations,” he says. “The fans were behind them from day one. They could play without fear.

If England go into the World Cup with supporters on their backs, it won't end well for them

If England go into the World Cup with supporters on their backs, it won’t end well for them

“They’ve kind of got rid of that fear because Gareth was brilliant at getting the media and the public on their side and taking a lot of pressure off the players. But the fans have now turned on Southgate and when the pressure comes the fear comes and we’ve all seen what that can do to English teams.

“Everyone is talking about Southgate wasting all our attacking flair and being too defensive. But if you look at our team – I’m not trying to belittle anyone – where we are weakest is the back. We need a Declan Rice and a Kalvin Phillips protecting the back four.

“The best teams can defend until halfway through because they can handle speed and are not afraid of being left behind one on one. I don’t think our center halves can be left one against one. Harry Maguire has had the worst season in ages and has been under a lot of pressure. Would John Stones be in City’s starting 11 if everyone is fit? I’m not sure. We are still one of the teams with a chance to win, but do I think we will win it? Not me.’

Despite the cathartic results, the Three Lions' chances are higher with Southgate at the helm

Despite the cathartic results, the Three Lions’ chances are higher with Southgate at the helm

If the reaction to Hungary’s defeat is anything, we can expect teams like Argentina, Brazil and France to be denigrated and patronized in the coming months as teams would comfortably send England to Qatar were it not for the manager’s caution.

It may come as a shock to some that the two South American giants in particular are in pretty good shape, have some decent players and may want to squabble over their allotted role as potential cheaters for England if only England were. freed from the dead hand of Southgate.

The reality, of course, is that England stand a much better chance of winning the tournament with Southgate at the helm than without him. And the reality is that the manager’s slander and the poison it spreads will do a lot more to hurt England’s chances in Qatar this winter than let Grealish start on the bench.


Rory McIlroy has always been celebrated as a fascinating interviewee and an ambassador for his sport, but in the last few weeks he has become golf’s most valuable asset and brightest statesman.

His clear, honest, unwavering take on the LIV golf tour’s bankruptcy has made clear how deep the feelings are towards the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway series and the reasons the game’s great players should shun it.

It also appears that leading the opposition and anger of the PGA Tour towards Greg Norman’s gang of mercenaries inspired McIlroy’s game.

He gained a lot of momentum from his stunning final round at the Masters in April through to this summer, but it’s like he’s been encouraged and motivated by championing a sport he loves.

Rory McIlroy is encouraged and motivated by defending a sport he loves

Rory McIlroy is encouraged and motivated by defending a sport he loves


Once you’ve seen an NBA game live, you’ll never choose the bench opponents who say they can’t fall in love with basketball because it’s just too easy.

Up close, the players are incredible athletes who have a wonderful talent for making the sometimes impossible look routine.

I’ve seen Michael Jordan play and LeBron James and while I’m not saying he’s a better player, neither was as fascinating as Steph Curry.

Curry’s grace and poise and quicksilver dribbling, with meticulous control and his three-point shooting, are a privilege to watch and all of his qualities were there last week when his Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics to win their fourth NBA title in eight years. † Curry was named the final MVP for the first time.

He may not be as acclaimed as Jordan or James, but he deserves a place as one of the modern sporting greats.

Neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James are as fascinating to watch as Steph Curry (above)

Neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James are as fascinating to watch as Steph Curry (above)

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