England boss Southgate supporting Stones after ‘difficult night’

Date published: Saturday 8th June 2019 2:56

England manager Gareth Southgate plans to make some changes for Sunday’s Nations League third-place play-off against Switzerland, with defender John Stones’ role under scrutiny.

Southgate has been encouraged by the response of his players after they suffered another semi-final defeat, beaten 3-1 by Holland after extra-time on Thursday night in Guimaraes.

Manchester City centre-back Stones was culpable for two of the Dutch goals, outmuscled by Matthijs De Ligt at a corner and then later robbed by Memphis Depay as he dithered on the ball, while also playing Ross Barkley into trouble ahead of the third.

Southgate, though, remained tight-lipped over just how much he would shift things around against the Swiss.

“I’m not looking at him (Stones) as an individual in terms of selection tomorrow,” he said.

“I’m looking at the team, the players we want to see and those who will give us the best opportunity to win the game tomorrow.

“In terms of working with (Stones) and supporting him, that’s very important because it was a difficult night for him. But there’s a longer process to be able to do that.

“Tomorrow we have to pick a team that’s ready, hungry to play again, and make sure the balance of the team is right. That’s the challenge of the next 24 hours.”

Despite the disappointment of Thursday night, Southgate maintains the group continue to grow on from their World Cup exploits in Russia last summer and on the road towards Euro 2020.

“We are at the stage now where as a team we are close to getting into finals and the opportunities to win trophies, but we haven’t got there yet so everybody is disappointed with that throughout the camp,” Southgate said at a press conference.

“What is encouraging is that it is very clear that the players are highly motivated as we go forward that they know that we have to be spot-on with the way we prepare, so I’ve seen positive signs within that response and absolutely we should be disappointed with the outcome.

“The match (against Switzerland) will be different to the semi-final. We want to finish the season on a good note.”

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