Neville slams ‘illegal’ Southgate misuse of ‘best football player’ England ‘have ever seen’

Jason Soutar
Trent Alexander-Arnold has to start for England, says Gary Neville
Trent Alexander-Arnold has to start for England, says Gary Neville

Gary Neville can not believe that Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is sitting on the bench for England at the European Championship.

Alexander-Arnold started on the bench for the second match in a row against Slovakia after starting the Three Lions’ opening two fixtures in central midfield next to Arsenal’s Declan Rice.

Manager Gareth Southgate admitted that playing natural right-back Alexander-Arnold in midfield was an “experiment”, which is a bold strategy at a major tournament.

Said “experiment” failed as the Liverpool star looked out of his depth and was replaced in the starting XI by Chelsea vice-captain Conor Gallagher.

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Gallagher only lasted 45 minutes in England’s third match of Euro 2024 against Slovenia and his replacement Kobbie Mainoo started on Sunday against Slovakia.

Southgate has always been very reluctant to play Alexander-Arnold at full-back and has opted against doing so despite Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier looking out of sorts.

Natural right-back Trippier has started on the left side of defence and has been poor, while Walker has disappointed.

It will be interesting to see if Southgate brings in Alexander-Arnold for the quarter-final against Switzerland and former England defender Neville is adamant he must be on the pitch.

Neville argued at half-time during the Slovakia win that keeping him on the bench is “illegal” as he is “the best football player we’ve ever seen at full-back in this country”.

“Trent Alexander-Arnold, it is illegal that lad is not playing football in a game like this for England,” he said.

“We can’t have Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier at left and right-back when we’re on the ball most of the time.

“That kid is the best football player we’ve ever seen at full-back in this country. He has got to be on the pitch.”

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England fell behind to Slovakia after 26 minutes and did not equalise until the 95th minute when Jude Bellingham popped up with an overhead kick.

Harry Kane’s goal two minutes into extra time was enough to send England into the last eight of Euro 2024.

“Relief is the word of the day,” Neville said after the game.

“We’ve been very, very lucky and we should thank our lucky stars because we were woeful and we’ve been woeful now for four games.

“Not even in extra time did we play well and Slovakia were unlucky at the end.

“We’ve got to change something dramatically and Gareth will realise tonight that he was so close to the edge.”

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