Lineker claims Southgate is ‘insulting’ England players as he slams ‘inexplicable’ decision

Joe Williams
Former England striker Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker has been outspoken throughout the tournament on the England team.

Gary Lineker has criticised England boss Gareth Southgate for “insulting” his players over his comments about replacing Kalvin Phillips.

England have picked up four points from two games in Group C following a 1-0 win against Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Denmark at Euro 2024.

However, the team have faced criticism for their performances after defending deep against Serbia and struggling to impose themselves during the Denmark clash.

Southgate’s ‘experiment’ of playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield has not worked so far with the Liverpool right-back brought off early in both their opening two matches.

And Southgate strangely admitted after the match that England were struggling to replace Kalvin Phillips, a player who was a regular under the Three Lions boss before he was dropped from the squad before the Euros.

Commenting on Southgate’s quotes, Lineker told the Rest Is Football podcast: “It’s insulting to some of the players that are there, and also it’s wrong. There are players in that squad that could do it.

“Even the young players he’s brought, in, Adam Wharton could do it. Kobbie Mainoo could probably do it. Bellingham could play.

“The players just need instructions, players need to understand what their jobs are.”

Former England striker Alan Shearer added: “If we’ve been relying on Kalvin Phillips for the last however many years, then that is very worrying to me. I didn’t understand his comment at all.”

To which Lineker continued: “That was very strange. Inside he will be sick.”

On a lethargic England performance against Denmark, Lineker said: “I can’t imagine anybody who is English who would’ve enjoyed England’s performance..

“It was lethargic, dour, you can think of all sorts of words, expletives if you like.

“Was it tactically inept? It’s really hard to be critical of Gareth Southgate because overall in the England role he’s turned England’s fortunes around in many ways.

“Having said that, he’s ended up adopting a really talented bunch of players. The semi-final of the World Cup, a final at the European Championship, a quarter-final of the subsequent World Cup where, to be honest, we were a little bit unlucky.

“He’s an amazing leader, he’s a great communicator, he’s transformed the public’s opinion of the national team and the players, he’s been brilliant on that, but tactically the first game, and we’ve seen it on other tournaments as well where England start okay and then get a goal and then everything changes.

“It’s almost like those tactics of getting a lead and hanging on to it, the game’s moved on from that.

“What I will say is that I find inexplicable, to be perfectly honest, is we watch Spain play, completely high press, excellent technical players, so have England, why do England not play a high press?

“They might play it for like three minutes in a game, are they not coached to play that?”

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Lineker added: “I think he [Southgate] errs on the side of caution, I think I’ve heard him say, ‘many times great expansive teams win football matches with great games, but teams that win tournaments are pragmatic’, I’m not so sure that’s the case any more, it’s moved on, the really good teams now press as a team, they press high, Germany, Spain.

“Can England do that with Harry Kane? I think you tell Harry Kane you’ve got to do that. Of course he will, he might not do it in as sharp a manner as other players because he’s not that kind of guy, but he’s a great pro, he will understand what his instructions are.

“I find it, not exasperating, but slightly inexplicable England don’t do that because all their players do it at club level, except for Harry, [Bukayo] Saka at Arsenal, [Declan] Rice at Arsenal, [Jude] Bellingham plays slightly differently at Real Madrid but I think he can do that all day long, you’ve got [Phil] Foden who does that at Manchester City, [Anthony] Gordon does it at Newcastle if you want to bring him because he’s the most natural player to play on that side.

“They all know how to do that, they all play that way for their club sides, Liverpool play that way, Arsenal play that way, Manchester City in particular play that way – why would you play a different style of football with a bunch of players who are used to playing a high press? I find it weird.”

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