Gareth Southgate has called for focus and humility when England visit Hungary in World Cup qualifying on Thursday night, telling his team not to start “swanning around” after their exploits at Euro 2020.
England’s manager has put to one side the pain of losing on penalties to Italy in the final of the Euros and is thinking about how to reach even greater heights. Southgate said that nothing other than winning next year’s World Cup in Qatar would do after the near-miss against Italy and he believes that will be possible only if his players steer clear of complacency.
“You find many different ways of motivating yourself and the team,” he said. “You are always looking for those edges and those things that inspire you and reset your mind on to the next challenge. But the next challenge is a completely different one. We’ve got to get back to base camp, we’ve got to qualify again. We’re not going into a semi-final or a final.
“We’ve got to play qualifying football away from home. We’ve got to give ourselves the opportunity to go to Qatar. We’ve got to have the humility to embrace that reset button and make sure that mentally we’re not just swanning around like a team that got to a final and we’ve got some sort of entitlement. It’s back to the hard work and humility that got us to the final in the first place.”
England have won their first three games in Group I and Southgate has thought about how to make sure his players stay hungry: “What’s the challenge for us? Is that it or are we going again? We have got to make sure we’re always in those semi-finals, finals – the games that matter.”
Southgate, who said that Jadon Sancho was a doubt with a knock, expects Jack Grealish to thrive after joining Manchester City from Aston Villa for £100m. “I don’t think the price tag itself bothers him,” he said. “I think he enjoys that. He’s a player that thrives on that sort of pressure.
“He will be judged differently on and off the pitch because of that price tag and because his profile is high at the moment. He is ready for that and would expect that. He is also going to play Champions League football and with top-level players every day. He’s going to play at a club where they have to win every week. The combination of all those things is going to help him become a better player.”
England will take the knee in Budapest despite the possibility of being booed. Hungary have been ordered to play their next three home Uefa competition matches behind closed doors because of “discriminatory behaviour” by their fans at Euro 2020, but Southgate said England could not point fingers after the crowd trouble that marred their game against Italy. Uefa could announce their verdict on the Wembley disorder this week.
“It won’t be unique for them to booed for taking a knee because that happened at Middlesbrough [from England fans] as a start,” Southgate said. “We still don’t know what the outcome of the investigation into our final is going to be and maybe we end up with a stadium ban.
“I always feel as if we shouldn’t look elsewhere until our own house is in order. I have always been brought up that when I’m a guest somewhere I’m respectful of that.”