Gary Lineker: ‘Call it what you want, England were s---’

Gary Lineker: 'Call it what you want, England were s---'

Gary Lineker has branded England’s performance against Denmark as “s---” and suggested Gareth Southgate was “tactically inept” in an unprecedented attack on the manager.

Thursday’s dismal 1-1 draw, which followed a poor performance in their opening European Championship win against Serbia, has unleashed a tidal wave of criticism from former players.

Speaking on his The Rest is Football podcast, Lineker branded Southgate’s tactics “inexplicable”, declaring Harry Kane’s admission the team did not know when to press opponents as “beyond concerning”. He also poured scorn on Southgate’s claim that the team were missing the absent Kalvin Phillips.

Stressing he thought the England manager was “a f------ great human being”, Lineker said of the Denmark debacle: “I mean, you can think of all sorts of words and expletives if you like, but it was s---.”

The BBC Match Of The Day presenter added: “Was it tactically inept? It’s really hard to be critical of Gareth Southgate because, overall in the England role, he’s turned England’s fortunes around in many ways.

“Having said that, he’s kind of ended up adopting a really talented bunch of players. We’ve done a semi-final of a World Cup final, a final at the European Championship, quarter-final of the subsequent World Cup where, to be honest, we were a little bit unlucky.

“He’s an amazing leader, he’s a great communicator, he’s transformed the public’s opinion of the national team and the players. But, tactically, the first game [against Serbia]… and we’ve seen it in other tournaments as well. England kind of start OK and then get a goal and then everything changes, and it’s almost like the kind of tactics of, get a lead, hang onto it. And the game’s moved on from that.”

Gary Lineker: 'Call it what you want, England were s---'
Gareth Southgate has come under fire for England's two displays - Getty Images/Javier Soriano

Lineker said he found it “inexplicable” England did not play a “high press”, given most of their players’ clubs did so.

“They might play it for about three minutes in the game. Are they not coached to play that?”

He added: “If anyone says that the England team is not trying or not giving 100 per cent, that is nonsense. They’re just a little bit lost tactically. And that comes from the manager, I’m afraid. It really does. He’s got to get England playing higher up the pitch, as a unit. Because, at the moment, they’re not a unit.”

Arguing Jude Bellingham should be moved into midfield alongside Declan Rice, he added of Southgate: “He talked about, ‘I’ve never been able to replace Kalvin Phillips. I thought, ‘Oh come on’. [Adam] Wharton could do that job easily. [Kobbie] Mainoo could do that job.

“If you want two holding players, Gareth, you can do that. But Bellingham could do that. Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, would have gone, ‘This is what you’ve got to do for the team. This is your job’.

“Footballers will always give everything. They always give everything. But do you know one thing they need? They need to know exactly what their job is. I guarantee you, right, the players will be going, ‘We need leadership from the top and we need to be told how to play’.

“I’ve seen this tournament after tournament now, with an unbelievably gifted bunch of players. You’ve got to be brave. You can’t play and worry about your team’s weaknesses. You’ve got to play to your team’s strengths.”

Keane: You’d probably have to put this on Gareth

If England fail to beat Slovenia in their final Group C game on Tuesday, they could end up having to play Germany in the last 16.

Admitting the tournament hosts would “batter” Southgate’s side “if we play the way we’re playing”, Lineker nevertheless said: “I’ve got a feeling they’re going to turn it round.”

Southgate also came under fire from other former players-turned-pundits, particularly over his failed experiment of playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield.

Speaking on ITV, Roy Keane said: “You’d probably have to put this on Gareth. It’s a huge gamble throwing a full-back into the middle of the park. This is not against the French or the Spanish where they have tougher tests ahead. This is against two teams who we thought England would be fairly comfortable against and have lots of possession.”

Alan Shearer was scathing on the BBC after commentating on Thursday’s game in Frankfurt.

“Gareth Southgate will get serious questions,” he said. “The way England are pressing at the moment makes me think they haven’t worked on it at all. When the forwards press, the midfield are stood 20 yards behind them, which is not enough. You can’t just go in twos and threes, you need to do all of the team together or nothing.

“It was not good enough. It is tournament football and it is our job to dissect what has gone wrong and there is plenty to look at that there. Where do you start? No energy, no guile. I would not say lack of effort, but there is so much more to come from those players.”

Ian Wright said on ITV: “Listening to Gareth, he mentioned about Kalvin Phillips and he’s the only one in the country who can play that role, I don’t believe that.

“I believe Adam Wharton can play it. I think Kobbie Mainoo can play it as well. You’ve picked them. Now we’re in a situation where it’s not desperation because we’ve got four points, but we’re in a place where we need something different, we need to change something.”

Questions were also being raised about whether Southgate had picked the right squad.

Dwaine Maynard, brother and agent of Marcus Rashford – left out following a poor season for Manchester United – posted on Instagram: “It’s hard to sit and watch when you honestly believe your man could make a difference!”