Southgate 'ambivalent' towards England criticism: 'It used to annoy me'

By Sports Desk June 19, 2024

Gareth Southgate is now "ambivalent" towards the constant scrutiny he and England face, unsurprised his team were criticised even after making a winning start to Euro 2024.

England beat Serbia 1-0 on Sunday and have the opportunity to secure their place in the last 16 against Denmark on Thursday.

Victory would mark the first time the Three Lions have started a Euros campaign with back-to-back wins. Indeed, prior to last weekend's match, they had only once won their championship opener – also under Southgate at Euro 2020.

Those facts were relayed to Southgate on the eve of the Denmark match, with the England manager asked if too much was expected of a team whose stuttering second-half performance against Serbia was picked apart by fans and pundits.

But Southgate, in his fourth tournament in the role, has come to terms with the narrative around the England team.

"I've been in this environment for eight years, so I understand it all," he said. "It used to annoy me, but now I'm ambivalent to it. Winning matches in tournaments is incredibly hard."

Those younger members of Southgate's squad who have not previously experienced the tournament rollercoaster might have been a little more taken aback by the response to the win.

Southgate explained: "You can see a lot of them who haven't been with England – 'right, we've won our first game, and this is how it is?'

"That's a strange experience for some of the boys who haven't been with us. It's great that we've got experienced players who have lived through it who can say, 'no, no, this is what's important, this is how we stay on track'.

"Our assessment of the game is most important. We're never slow to pull things up that aren't right, that aren't good enough. So, that's the most important view, the way we dissect the game."

Southgate did acknowledge Sunday's match did not go entirely to plan, with Serbia gaining a foothold after half-time, albeit without really threatening to cancel out Jude Bellingham's early header.

"We didn't set out to sit back," insisted Southgate, with similar patterns in previous tournament matches having been a point of contention.

Both Southgate and the England supporters will hope for a more complete performance against Denmark then, although the manager confirmed left-back Luke Shaw would not return from injury in time to feature. Right-back Kieran Trippier is in line to deputise again.

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