Harry Kane offers Gareth Southgate backing and tells England team-mates: Get used to the World Cup pressure!

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·3-min read
Harry Kane offers Gareth Southgate backing and tells England team-mates: Get used to the World Cup pressure!
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Harry Kane has told his England team-mates to get used to the pressure that comes with being among the World Cup favourites, as Gareth Southgate shrugged off recent criticism of his side by insisting: “I’ve seen it worse.”

England have just three matches left before their World Cup opener against Iran in mid-November, the first of which comes tonight against Hungary in the Nations League, as a marathon season finally draws to a close.

The Three Lions have gone three games without a win during this international round of fixtures, following defeat in Hungary with draws against Italy and Germany, and are in need of a victory at Molineux to keep their hopes of reaching next summer’s Nations League finals alive.

Southgate has made clear that his priority over the past fortnight has been fine-tuning for Qatar, but the string of poor results have still prompted grumblings of discontent. However, the 51-year-old says experience means he is happy to take the stick on the chin.

“There will always be noise,” he said. “I was an England player for the best part of a decade, manager for six years, and there will always be noise. I have [seen it all before] and I’ve seen it worse. I’ve also not too often seen it better than we’ve had [at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020].

“You’ve got to roll with all of that and not be distracted and change track on things you need to see by trying to force players that shouldn’t be playing just because you want a result you think might help your standing. That’s not going to help England.”

Expectations during the early part of Southgate’s tenure were low, off the back of the disastrous defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016, and England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup came as a welcome surprise.

However, after proving it was no fluke by reaching the final of Euro 2020 last summer, captain Kane accepts there is a different level of pressure on Southgate’s men heading to Qatar.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to deal with,” he said. “I think going into this World Cup we will probably be seen as one of the favourites, compared to the 2018 World Cup where there was no expectation on the team.

Harry Kane has backed England boss Gareth Southgate amid criticism over his conservative approach (PA)
Harry Kane has backed England boss Gareth Southgate amid criticism over his conservative approach (PA)

“But any big team has to deal with that and has to cope with that. So we'll see once we get there, but I feel that we're in a good place.”

Kane’s penalty against Germany last week is the only goal England have scored this month, leading to renewed criticism of Southgate’s tactical conservatism and apparent inability to get the best out of his attacking talent beyond Kane and Raheem Sterling.

Southgate reiterated only last week that he would not outstay his welcome, but Kane threw his full support behind England’s manager.

“We have been one of the most successful England teams in the past 50 years or so,” he added. “So I think we are definitely on the right track. Gareth is a fantastic manager and we are looking forward to being with each other for another major tournament.”

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