Gareth Southgate wants England’s Under-17 World Cup winners to learn that pride in the badge on the front of their shirt is more important than their names on the back.
England’s young heroes switched their shirts back to front while celebrating their World Cup triumph last month so it was their names and numbers on show, rather than the Three Lions badge.
Former Liverpool and England midfielder Danny Murphy criticised the players, claiming their behaviour was symptomatic of modern-day youngsters thinking more about individual fame than the collective effort of the team.
Southgate believes they can learn a valuable lesson.
“I balance the fact they’re young kids in a real moment of ecstasy where, are they going to think logically about what they’re doing?” Southgate said.
“However, I think what we would hope in the future is that the Three Lions is the more important thing. It’s the badge on the front of the shirt rather than the name on the back.
“I also understand at that moment they’re not necessarily thinking about that but I think it’s a good thing to talk to the young teams about moving forward, that we’re building for England and it’s about the team.
“It’s about winning together and experiences together. It’s not about building up any one individual.”
Southgate was keen to stress the issue surrounding the shirts was a minor blip in what was otherwise a brilliant tournament for the squad, on and off the pitch.
Southgate said: “If that’s the worst thing they’ve done over the four weeks, where I think they’ve been brilliant ambassadors for English football. They seem to have interacted really well with the Indian public and were having great support from local people in every city wherever they’ve been because of that engagement.
“Then I’m back to the (question): ideally would they do that? No. But also what they’ve done in a positive way far outweighs what they’ve done with that.”
England’s senior side play friendlies against Germany and Brazil in the next 10 days and Southgate has shown an eagerness to usher in fresh talent, with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks all included in the squad.
Southgate believes the next generation is producing technically gifted players, who are also strong in possession.
“I don’t think any of our players can feel comfortable that they’re a guaranteed selection because players are emerging all the time and we’re seeing technically good players,” Southgate said.
“I took the job with the under-21s because my belief at the time was we had young players who could play in a certain way.
“I remember being in a meeting where someone in the room said ‘We were playing Holland at a certain age group, so we knew they’d have more of the ball’. We said ‘hang on a minute, why should that be the case?’ This is what we have to affect.
“At pretty much every age group in most games we have more of the ball. We had as much of the ball in Germany as they did. We had more of the ball in France, which we expected. But more of the ball doesn’t mean you win the game, so you have to get every aspect of it right.
“But my belief was that young English players could play and do things with the ball that others can and that is being evidenced through our age groups. The next phase is how we take that into the first team and that’s my responsibility.”