Neville: England should build around ‘outstanding’ Spurs star

Date published: Monday 10th June 2019 1:51 - Matthew Stead

Gary Neville feels Gareth Southgate must prioritise the development of Harry Winks for England to progress as a footballing nation.

Winks earned a promotion on our England ladder without even being called up for the Nations League finals this week.

The 23-year-old was not deemed worth the risk due to his recent injury – although he featured in Tottenham’s Champions League final defeat to Liverpool at the start of the month.

Neville now feels that England and their laughably shoddy midfield should try and build around the 23-year-old, as well as Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

“The midfield was not ideal against Netherlands. Declan Rice, Fabian Delph, Ross Barkley. That is not an international midfield, whichever way we look at it,” he told Sky Sports.

“I know everyone will look at the mistakes playing out from the back, but I think the midfield was the big problem in the game. It wasn’t just a case of making bad decisions on the ball. We continuously found our defenders having that first look, that first touch, that second look, that second touch, that third look, that third touch. All of a sudden they’re converged upon by Dutch players and they have to pass it back to Jordan Pickford.

“With the amount of times that happened in the first half, I would suspect Gareth Southgate said at half-time ‘Stop passing back to the goalkeeper.’ However the issue was not with the defenders, or the goalkeeper, it was in front of that.

“We know Fabian Delph does not get the ball on the half turn, that’s not what he does. He’s tidy on the ball, he’s competent, he’s got better on the ball in the last few years, but he’s not somebody who is going to get the rhythm of the game moving.

“Declan Rice is a young player, who has shown a lot of promise at West Ham, but this is a different level all together for that young man, in terms of subtlety, accepting the ball, the nuances. He’s got a lot to learn in terms of becoming a top international midfield player. He’s got three or four years to develop into that.

“No other country in the top nations would put a player into that midfield so untested. We are still in a situation where if you play 10, 15, 20 games for a Premier League team, not even in the top half of the table, you are having to be catapulted into a situation, which in some ways is unfair.

“Look at the midfields who have been dominant in recent times in international football. The current French midfield – Matuidi, Pogba, Kante, with Griezmann dropping in. The Spanish midfield with Busquets, Iniesta, Thiago, Xavi. The German midfield of Kroos, Ozil, Schweinsteiger. They’re all rhythm and tempo players, they control the pace of the match.

“Gareth doesn’t have the players at his disposal. Harry Winks is a must moving forward; he was outstanding in the Champions League final, and looked a different level.

“It’s quite simple for Gareth, he needs to progress the Winks and Fodens of this world.

“Currently we don’t have enough players who can have that look over their shoulder, see where they are and beat a man. The hardest thing in football is to beat a man with your back to play, but the very best players can do so.”


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