Gareth Southgate takes it easy on Man City’s party boys after their wild Treble celebrations – but insists ‘there is a line’ – as he admits fears over an ’emotional dip’ ahead of England’s clash with Malta
- Gareth Southgate has insisted that he will take it easy on Man City’s party boys
- Five of City’s Treble winners reported back for England training on Tuesday
- The England boss admitted that the players could suffer from an ’emotional dip’
Gareth Southgate smiled when the question came. He was talking about Manchester City’s treble celebrations and whether there was maybe a line that should not be crossed when there are still international games left to play.
‘Yes there is,’ the England manager said, without indicating explicitly whether that line had actually been crossed or merely straddled. ‘But in our head we weren’t thinking of including the City players for this next game.’
In Malta, ahead of what should be the most straightforward of European Championship qualifiers tonight, Southgate and his coaching staff arrived with a full complement of players.
It is perhaps as well, though, that he had always planned to be without the City quintet of Jack Grealish, John Stones, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips for the first of a double-header that ends with a game against North Macedonia at Old Trafford on Monday.
Since we saw them lifting the Champions League last Saturday night in Istanbul, City’s players have partied so hard that for some it even included a night in Ibiza. After returning from that, they were still at it during the club’s bus parade on Monday.
The likes of Jack Grealish (second left) and Phil Foden (left) were involved in City’s recent wild Treble celebrations
England boss Gareth Southgate has admitted fears over an ’emotional dip’ from City’s players
Inevitably Southgate was asked if that wasn’t a bit much. ‘As I have said, I have spoken with the players and we have talked about where our focus needs to be and where we need them to be,’ he said. ‘We have acknowledged what they have experienced and that is for me to manage over the coming week.’
ENGLAND VS MALTA
ENGLAND (4-3-3): Pickford; Trippier, Guehi, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Alexander-Arnold; Saka, Kane, Maddison.
Kick-off: 7.45pm, Ta’ Qali Stadium.
TV: LIVE on Channel 4 from 7pm.
Referee: Igor Pajac (Croatia).
Asked if he was comfortable with it, he added: ‘I think there is nothing to be served with me discussing that publicly. We weren’t considering those boys to start this game. We were hopeful they could play some part and that is still the case.
‘Point number one is they all wanted to come in to be with the group, which is fantastic. And as I said to them — we are all in the unknown a little bit.
‘The focus with all of the City boys is just to get them right for these games. Inevitably we just don’t know what that emotional dip is going to be for them. They need to recover, they need to sleep, they need to eat well and we want to get them ready.
‘I’ve seen enough to know what could help us here and then Monday is a few days further on. We have had players fresh from teams in the Champions League final before but we haven’t had a team that has won a treble. For that group of players and staff, things will never be the same again. Everything changes in their lives.’
Having won their first two qualifiers in Italy and at home to Ukraine in March, England can all but wrap up qualification for next summer’s finals in Germany with victories over the weakest teams in their group over the next four days.
Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi is set to make his first England start to alongside Harry Maguire tonight. Southgate is also considering playing Liverpool full back Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield.
Whatever happens, it should be a more pleasurable experience than the last time Southgate and England were here for a World Cup qualifier in September 2017.
City’s Kyle Walker will likely be rested despite playing a bit-part role in their Champions League final victory
Southgate watches on his players train ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifier against Malta
England’s players were abused by their own fans on the way to the game and on the way back. They won 4-0 after a late flurry of goals but by the time most of the travelling fans left the stadium, England were only 1-0 up.
‘Myself and Steve Holland were talking about it as we landed,’ recalled Southgate. ‘I’m not sure everyone knew we had won 4-0 because they were in the bar at 1-0, some at 0-0.
‘For us it was a good reference to how far the relationship with the fans has come. Performances are going to ebb and flow, (but) the connection with the fans feels completely different now.’
Reminded that fans were singing ‘We are f*****g sh*t’ that night, Southgate said: ‘We heard all of that. The reality is we are not. But we always have to show that.’
Tonight should be as simple as it ever gets. Ranked 172nd in the world — which puts them just above Bermuda and Nepal — it is no surprise to find Malta approaching the match having set a low ceiling of expectation. Indeed, the best news of the week for the Malta FA was that the national stadium will be full to its 18,000 capacity.
Asked yesterday if he was preparing anything specific for Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka, Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello said: ‘Those players are superstars. But I won’t be dreaming about them. Otherwise I might be exhausted before the game.’
Southgate recalled England’s last visit to the country – which resulted in a 4-0 win for his side
Malta coach Michele Marcolini — an Italian who has spent much of his career working in his home country’s lower divisions — was keen to stress that tonight should be viewed as much for the experience as for the result.
‘Football is not only about money or being famous,’ said Marcolini. ‘It’s about how it makes you feel and (tonight) will be amazing. I would love to be playing again but I can’t.
‘This is why a guy wants to become a footballer. This is the kind of match I dreamed of, against one of the best teams in the world.
‘They have amazing players. That the supporters will be filling the stands is another reason to give our best and make ourselves proud.’
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