Phil Foden is a superstar who can be a shining light for England at Euro 2020 – Gareth Southgate MUST now have him as a nailed-on starter for the tournament opener in June
- Phil Foden is extremely exciting and can be England’s shining light at the Euros
- It is time Gareth Southgate made him a first-team regular instead of a super sub
- Even against Albania’s stubborn defence, Foden showed flashes of brilliance
- Mason Mount is another young star who is coming of age in an England shirt
It was late on Thursday night when Phil Foden came out with a sentence that made you do a double take. Usually, it’s his ability with the ball that stops you in your tracks but, this time, it was a few short words in relation to his place in England’s squad.
‘There are so many great talents in the attacking third,’ Foden noted, when he was asked about the clamour on Gareth Southgate to include him. ‘So I feel sorry for him a bit, having to pick 11. It’s very difficult. All I can do is keep fighting for my place.’
Sorry? In some ways, there was something endearing about the phrase. Many would have tried to pigeon-hole Foden as being young, selfish and arrogant after his much-publicised misdemeanour in Iceland last September but the reality is something different.
Phil Foden has shown he can be a shining light for England at the European Championship
He’s quiet around the camp, respectful of Southgate’s leadership and ready and willing to play when he is called upon. He wouldn’t kick up a fuss in private if he is not in the starting line-up so it was never going to be a case of him saying something different when the tapes were rolling.
But if Foden feels sympathy for Southgate and the seemingly endless possibilities he has in attack, our sympathies should lie with the Manchester City midfielder from this point forward if he continues to be used off the bench.
Southgate has alluded to the fact he knows his starting line-up for when the European Championship begin, with a Wembley date against Croatia on June 14. From what we have seen, Foden’s name must be included in that XI.
It’s time to really get excited about this 20-year-old and appreciate this is someone who plays football a little bit differently. Don’t worry about whether he can withstand the spotlight, he can deal with it alright – when he was 18, he was scoring goals that were helping City win the title.
Foden’s style is spontaneous, full of enthusiasm and it highlights his love of playing football
You may say that an ultimately comfortable 2-0 win in Tirana offers no comparison to what will becoming at England when this summer’s tournament begins but there were so many flashes that made you believe Foden can be a shining light in June.
In those early stages against Albania, when a red wall of stubborn defenders stood in England’s way, it was Foden who kept swarming around, demanding he be given the ball. Harry Kane complicated things a little bit, by persistently dropping deep, but Foden always found space.
The thing that is so enjoyable about watching Foden is the natural, instinctive way he goes about his business. It’s spontaneous, full of enthusiasm and it highlights that this a young man who simply loves playing football – believe it or not, there are some players his age who don’t feel the same.
To give you an idea, when Foden was with England’s Under-21s at the European Championship two summers ago, the squad were given a day of rest in between matches. Some players shopped, others went to cafes – Foden spent the day in the back garden of the villa his family were staying and kicked a ball around for six hours with his siblings.
Gareth Southgate says he knows his Euro 2020 first eleven – Foden must now be in that line-up
This is someone whose story reminds you, in some respects, of Wayne Rooney. There is a fearlessness about what he does, a desire to help the team and you could see Foden doing what Rooney did in Portugal 17 years ago – provided he is given the chance.
Many would expect Southgate’s front three to be Raheem Sterling, Kane and Marcus Rashford but the suspicion is Rashford would be better through the middle and having Foden buzzing in from the right, with his class and guile on the ball, would give England an added dimension.
Foden advertised his claims against Albania, as did Mason Mount, another young man who is coming of age. England look so much better playing 4-3-3 and Mount absolutely flourished alongside Declan Rice, popping up to score the decisive second goal midway through the second period.
Despite Harry Kane (left) persistently dropping deep, Foden (right) always found some space
Mount’s England career has been on an upward trajectory since last autumn, when he scored a winning goal against Belgium in the Nations League, and there is no disputing how much Southgate admires what the Chelsea midfielder does for his team. There is room for him and Foden.
‘We are always continuing to work hard at it, get better at it, understand each other more and that is going to keep getting better and better, which is exciting,’ said Mount. You are excited when you are on the pitch with the likes of the players that played (here) and the ones we’ve got in the squad.
‘It is very exciting times so it is brilliant to keep playing. We are working harder each day in training as we know what’s around the corner.’
It is, to be specific, a date with destiny. These young men are ready to meet the challenge head on – all Southgate needs to do is unleash them.
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