Phil Foden keen to create his own Euros history with England despite nod to Gazza

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Phil Foden keen to create his own Euros history with England despite nod to Gazza
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With a freshly-dyed shock of blond hair, the comparisons were obvious.

But Phil Foden is not Gazza Take Two: he is part of a brave new generation of England players, unencumbered by the past and ready to create their own history.

The saying goes that those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. But there is also much to be said for not being weighed down by what has gone before, as has so often been the case for the Three Lions.

Foden is fearless — and why not? He is already one of the finest players in Europe, a serial winner at the age of 21 and a man with the mental strength to handle comparisons with Andres Iniesta and David Silva throughout his development at Manchester City.

When he decided to dye his hair on the eve of the Euros, the association with Paul Gascoigne and Euro 96 did not even enter his mind.

For the record, his is more platinum than the peroxide of Gazza. “It was my own thing and people have turned into something else,” he said. “It won’t be too bad if I try to bring a bit of Gazza onto the pitch.”

Foden was born four years after Euro 96 and 10 years after the penalty shootout heartache of Italia 90.

He grew up watching the Golden Generation of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Co fail to live up to the expectation placed on them.

Now he is among a new era that has the potential to be golden and he gives the impression of a man who wants to seize the opportunity of becoming a legend for his country, rather being frozen by it.

Despite his formative years coinciding with an era when the Premier League and Champions League overtook international football as the pinnacle of the game, his hunger to achieve with England is clear.

“I was a massive England fan growing up,” he said. “I couldn’t really name just one player. I just loved the full team.

“Together there were so many great players. I believe that we should have got more from the team that we had.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“We just want to focus on what we’re going to do now and create our own history.

“I feel excited. It’s my first time at a major tournament with England, so I’m excited to see what happens and what the future holds.

“We have looked at previous times together, as a team, and we are all just feeling dead confident. Obviously, me, Mason (Mount), Reece (James) and Raz (Raheem Sterling) have made the Champions League Final. We’ve all been playing at a great standard this year, so I believe, as a group and all together, that we can really push on to win it.”

As for the pressure that previous England players have complained about in the past, Foden said: “When someone is doing well, the media jump all over it, but we have a lot of young players in the team and they are all very level-headed, so it’s not going to get to me or any of the young players.”

The role played by Southgate in changing the culture around the England team cannot be underestimated.

At the World Cup in 2018, he reconnected them with the nation — and it is something he has tried to nurture over the past three years, which is always difficult in between tournaments, let alone after a Covid-delayed Euros.

He showed his players an inspirational video at St George’s Park on Tuesday, designed to celebrate England’s past.

Luke Shaw, who watched England reach the semi-finals in Russia while on holiday in Dubai, has seen the difference made by Southgate, compared to the squads he was involved in under Roy Hodgson.

“When I first came back into this camp, the first thing I said to my girlfriend when I got home was how close the group are,” he said. “When I was in the England squads when I was a bit younger, it didn’t feel as close as it is now.

“Gareth is unbelievable and has been really good with me.

“He’s really good around the place. I think he knows exactly what people need, what players need and I feel like he’s starting to understand what’s the best for England.”

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