Penalties, punctuality and dirty socks – England are leaving nothing to chance

England train in the gym at Al Wakrah Stadium - Getty Images
England train in the gym at Al Wakrah Stadium - Getty Images

Gareth Southgate gathered his England players for a team meeting to remind them to keep standards high and their dirty socks in check following Germany’s elimination from the World Cup.

Captain Harry Kane and some of England’s other senior players also spoke at the meeting about the need not to take anything for granted after watching Germany and Belgium suffer World Cup shocks.

England face Senegal in the last 16 on Sunday and the eliminations of Germany and Belgium in the group stage prompted Southgate to remind his players they must not get sloppy.

Southgate’s team breezed into the knockout phase by winning Group B and are the favourites to get past Senegal and book a quarter-final place, but the England manager is clearly taking nothing for granted and there was another surprise on Friday, with Uruguay being eliminated.

During a team meeting on Friday, Southgate told his players to maintain high standards on and off the pitch, which includes turning their dirty socks the right way around to be washed, putting their kit in the right place after training and not being late for meetings or meals.

Defender John Stones said: “We spoke briefly in our meeting this morning as a team about not letting any standards drop. It was the manager, Harry [Kane] and a few of the boys spoke up.

“Whether it might be putting your kit the right way for the kit men, putting out socks the right way for the kit men – we get on each other for things like that because we have created those standards. Those little things matter and those little things keep you on the right path.

“So we spoke about what has happened and spoke about the big nations that have gone – that can’t be ourselves and that goes with all the little things that we have been doing, all the good traits we have as a team or players. We can’t let those slide and we have to make sure we stay focused on the job in hand.”

John Stones - Penalties, punctuality and keeping dirty socks in check – England are leaving nothing to chance - Martin Rickett/PA
John Stones - Penalties, punctuality and keeping dirty socks in check – England are leaving nothing to chance - Martin Rickett/PA

As well as keeping standards high off the pitch, England will not leave anything to chance on it and are now practising penalties against goalkeepers to be ready for the possibility of a shoot-out.

While Stones said an order for takers has not yet been communicated to the players, it is understood Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka, who missed from the spot in the final of the European Championship, are in line to take penalties if they are on the pitch and England are involved in a shoot-out.

Asked to expand on the standards England set off the pitch that help the team be at their best on it, Stones added: “I really think it’s the small things. For your team-mates, not being late to meetings.

“I mentioned the kit. All those, if you start getting sloppy with the little things, the bigger things start to get sloppy very easily. So I think it was just a quiet reminder that we need to keep our standards and be conscious of those as well.

“Because we’re here together and we should respect each other, and we are all fighting for the same thing. Any one per cent, or two per cent that we can do to get better …obviously those are small things but they matter to us. That transfers on to the training pitch, where if we’ve been sloppy off it we might be sloppy on it.

'We’re consciously thinking about leading into matches'

“We’ve got to train well, we’ve got to fight for each other, we’ve got to do the small details well. As I mentioned about us already practising penalties, again, the little one or two per cents we can improve on as players, and we’re consciously thinking about leading into matches. So when we get there, we know we’ve ticked every box.

“When you’re inside it [the camp], you know the standards and you know what’s expected of you. So it’s about being together and picking someone up when they’ve let something slide a bit, or not realised they’ve let something slide, and having that unity.

“We’ve already seen big upsets and we definitely don’t want to be one of those teams that takes anything for granted, doesn’t respect the opposition in whatever form and I think we’ve always done that, always show teams respect, no matter what form they are in, what players they’ve got and we will continue doing that.

“I’m looking forward to the teams we’ve not played before and progressing through this tournament. That’s the biggest aim, to concentrate on ourselves and go out and perform like we can.”