England boss Southgate told to make Kane change as Lineker, Shearer savage ‘rotten’ Three Lions again

Joe Williams
England striker Harry Kane
Harry Kane during the 0-0 draw with Slovenia.

England boss Gareth Southgate should swap Harry Kane for Ollie Watkins earlier on in matches, according to former Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor.

The Three Lions have struggled to score goals at the tournament so far with Southgate’s side waiting until the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of the second half against Slovakia to find an equaliser.

Jude Bellingham’s spectacular overhead kick was followed by a Kane extra-time header to secure a fortunate 2-1 victory over Slovakia in the last 16 at Euro 2024.

Despite scoring two goals at the tournament, Kane’s overall play has been criticised and Agbonlahor reckons Southgate should take off the England captain earlier in games for Aston Villa striker Watkins.

Responding to a caller claiming Southgate’s decision to not replace Kane against Slovakia was justified, Agbonlahor said on talkSPORT: “I disagree mate. Ollie Watkins could have scored that goal, Ivan Toney could have scored that goal – it was a tap-in with a header from close-range.

“We have to make changes earlier. I couldn’t care less about the goal because anyone could have scored that goal, he’s in the right position at the right time.

“I was watching the game and Harry Kane is just stood in the middle – he’s not coming short to get the ball, he’s not running behind and stretching the centre-half.

“I played as a lone striker many times, you can’t just stay in the middle of the pitch. You have to make runs so that Bellingham goes past you or Foden comes in off the left-hand side – he’s just stood there and not offering anything.

“He’s not holding the ball up, not winning headers or stretching defenders – we need more from our striker.

“Yes, he scored the winner and yes, he scored the winner in extra time, but he’s not done enough to be staying on the pitch as long as he did.”

Agbonlahor continued: “Would I start him in the next game? Yes, I would, but would I bring him off earlier in the 50th minute for Watkins? Yes, I would.

“We were crying out for someone to run in behind. If you ask a midfielder, they love a striker who can run in behind. It creates so much space for other players.”

Agbonlahor added: “I don’t understand it. You don’t need your coaching badges to understand that it isn’t working.

“Foden is not working on the left. He’s had four games – it’s not his fault, he’s just not used to playing there in the last year. Even for Manchester City he’s not been playing there.

“Put Foden in the middle. For me, Eze came on and did enough to start – him or Gordon on that left-hand side. Saka is touch and go, for me. I’d bring Cole Palmer in for Saka.

“Harry Kane, yes he scored, but he’s doing nothing at all. Everybody can see these changes apart from our manager.”

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Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer called England’s display against Slovakia “rotten” with Bellingham saving the Three Lions from “one of the most miserable, humiliating performances in English football history.”

Lineker revealed that Shearer walked out of the room at “one point” during the tense victory over Slovakia, he said on the Rest Is Football podcast: “God, it was so stressful watching it, wasn’t it. There was one point where Alan was so exasperated that he got up out [of] his chair.

“He said, ‘I need to walk. I need to walk’. And he walked out to the back room there and we suddenly heard from wherever he was, ‘AAAAAAAGH!!!’

“I’m not exaggerating.”

Shearer added: “It was desperation. It was desperate. They were so bad, it was untrue. I was thinking Iceland – 2016, was it? – 2016 all over again, with much better players. It was that bad.

“England were offering nothing. Nothing at all. And I just couldn’t see where it was going to come from. And then a piece of brilliance.”

Lineker agreed and continued: “It’s difficult in a way to know how to pitch the response to it, isn’t it. Because, ultimately, England are through to the quarter-finals. They found a way, through the sheer kind of determination and brilliance of Jude Bellingham at the end.

“But you can’t gloss over the problems and the performance.”

On the general display against Slovakia, Lineker said: “I can’t remember a performance, aside from the very, very end, where England had been so lacking. They had two shots on target in the game and one was a header. But that was it.

“They weren’t cohesive. They were disjointed. They were unbalanced yet again, as we’ve seen many times in this tournament. They played deep, they were apart, the distances from the back four to the front were way too big, they weren’t condensed in their play.

“It was as though they’d just met each other for the first time and gone on a field and tried to play football.”

He added: “They’re like lost souls. I don’t think they really know what they’re supposed to be doing, what their jobs are, how the team is supposed to be playing.”