Gareth Southgate has revealed how Jack Grealish reacted to being substituted shortly after coming on for England against Denmark.
England reached the Euro 2020 final by beating Denmark 2-1 after extra-time at a raucous Wembley.
Mikkel Damsgaard opened the scoring with a free-kick before Simon Kjaer’s own-goal leveller nine minutes later.
Harry Kane then put England through late on when he scored the rebound from his own saved penalty, a decision which left Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand understandably “bitter”.
The England players were excellent to a man, although Grealish was given only 36 minutes to impress upon his introduction.
The Aston Villa captain was brought on for Bukayo Saka in the 69th minute before being taken off in the aftermath of Kane’s winning goal as Southgate switched systems with Kieran Trippier adding more defensive solidity.
But Grealish took the decision well as England reached their first European Championship final.
“Raheem was causing so many problems all night it had to be Phil or Jack coming off, it was not an easy decision,” Southgate said.
“We still needed to get that pressure up the pitch. We sank a little bit too deep for five minutes or so.
“In the end Jack said: ‘I’m not really bothered, we made the final!’ He had the impact we wanted in the game.”
Discussing the substitution further with BBC Radio 5 Live, Southgate added: “He’s fine. He understood.
“He was terrific when he came on he gave us momentum but we know when they’ve gone behind in games they’ve thrown four men up front so we needed to get an extra defender on just to make sure we were more solid and I wanted to keep Raheem’s speed on so it meant taking one of the two boys off who had just come on.”
ITV Sport pundits praised Southgate for the decision, while sympathising with Grealish.
“I feel for Jack Grealish,” said Ian Wright. “You can see it’s a tournament that he really wants to be a part of. Every time he gets going it doesn’t quite happen for him. To be taken off like that… you subbed a sub and it’s not nice.
“But it is about the squad and being a part of it. Sunday, Jack might come on and make a massive difference. He might set up the winning goal.”
Gary Neville added: “There’s been moments all the way through this tournament where Gareth has been questioned and been battered if it’d gone wrong.
“He’s done things his way all the way through the tournament, there’s no ego in the dressing room. He’ll make the decisions that need to be made for the team to be successful and he puts the team first.
“Jack tonight has suffered and look, it’s an embarrassing moment for him in the sense of being a subbed sub. Nobody likes it but he will recognise it was the right thing to do for the team.”
Roy Keane predictably loved it: “That was straightforward from Gareth because it’s very easy to manage players who are playing, it’s keeping the guys in the background who might be getting a bit annoyed happy. It’s good management.
“He is a nice guy but you have to be nasty to work at this level. It was no surprise when Gareth made that decision. Jack will have to look at the bigger picture. It’s all about the team getting to the final.
“There’s no doubt that Gareth is nasty enough to make those decisions and we saw it tonight.”