Southgate backs team leaders to help England youngsters



Sun, 16 Jun 2024 - 11:45 GMT


Sun, 16 Jun 2024 - 11:45 GMT

England manager Gareth Southgate before the match Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

England manager Gareth Southgate before the match Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

(Reuters) - Gareth Southgate's young squad carry heavy expectations to deliver England their first European Championship title and ahead of their opening match on Sunday the manager has assembled a leadership group to help cope with the pressure.


Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham will be responsible for guiding a squad including several players lacking major tournament experience.


"There's a different dynamic to this group with a lot of younger players," Southgate told reporters on Saturday. "I don't want to leave here with any stone unturned. I don't want to miss anything. The players have good views."


Bellingham shoulders perhaps the heaviest expectations after his remarkable debut season at Real Madrid in which they won the Champions League and LaLiga trophies.


An Adidas ad went viral this week depicting Bellingham as England's saviour after the country's previous failures at major tournaments. The commercial -- set to The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and ending with a shot of Bellingham and the words "You got this" -- drew criticism from fans who said it placed too much pressure on the 20-year-old.


"From my perspective, he's a young player and one of a number of very important players in the team at Real Madrid. In this team, that load is spread," Southgate said.


"He has a fantastic mindset and the ability to adapt. He has coped so well at a young age. He's come into our squad and moved to the biggest club in the world. It's great to have the talented players that we have but the onus is on everyone to do their part."


Pressure is a privilege, said Kane, who will captain an England side bidding to go one better than their shootout loss to Italy in the last Euro final.


"Every tournament poses different expectations but we've earned the right to be classed as one of the favourites," the Bayern Munich forward said.


"But we look at ourselves individually and as a team and we know in part we've done a lot of things well and made the country proud in good tournaments.


"We're here to win ultimately and there will be nothing better than to do that for the nation."


Southgate said everyone was available for the opening match, including defender Luke Shaw, who has not played since February after injuring his hamstring.


"We have a decision whether Luke is a possible to use from the bench or not but everyone has trained today and is available," he said.


England are not taking Serbia lightly, said Southgate, despite the Serbs conceding eight goals in three games in an early exit from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.


"Very tough. They have good individual players, fantastic collective spirit. Dangerous forwards," the 53-year-old said.


England play Denmark on Thursday and meet Slovenia in their final Group C game on June 25.



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