Gareth Southgate believes it is a fallacy to say England have ‘big players’ considering the lack of major trophies among them and proven ability at the top.
World Cup qualification may have been secured but questions remain over the state of the national team, having floundered at recent major tournaments and flattered to deceive on numerous occasions.
Limping to Russia with a last-gasp 1-0 win against Slovenia on Thursday only exacerbated matters, leading enthusiasm to wane further ahead of Sunday’s Group F dead rubber against Lithuania.
Big names like Harry Kane and Dele Alli are set to start the final World Cup qualifier in Vilnius, yet Southgate was keen to point out that profile does necessarily turn them into ‘big players’.
The exciting duo have not won a major medal between them and the only members of this England squad to have tasted Champions League glory are Ryan Bertrand, Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge.
Three Lions boss Southgate said:
“Well, are they big players until they win?
“We’re talking about big players because of transfer fees or because they are playing in the Champions League.
“When we are in semi-finals, finals, winning trophies, then I think I think we’re big players. Until that point, for me, we have it all to prove.
“I am the same as coach, so I don’t disassociate myself from that. But we can’t consider ourselves big players.
“Big players are (Gerard) Pique, (Sergio) Ramos, (Sergio) Busquets, (Toni) Kroos, (Sami) Khedira, (Manuel) Neuer – I could go on. That’s what big players are.
“We create a bubble in our country around the league because of the money, because of the profile of it.
“We have it to prove. No problem, these guys are hungry to prove it.”