Southgate defends ‘exceptional’ Foden and tells players to ignore criticism

<span>Gareth Southgate has praised the way <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Phil Foden;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Phil Foden</a> worked for the team against Serbia.</span><span>Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters</span>

Gareth Southgate has defended Phil Foden’s “exceptional” display against Serbia and has told England’s ­players to ignore criticism of their performances during Euro 2024.

Southgate, who remains uncertain when Luke Shaw will return from a hamstring injury, has been trying to make sure that England are not affected by external noise before they face Denmark in their second match in Group C.

Related: Kobbie Mainoo stays cool as clamour for England midfield spot grows

It has not escaped the head coach that Foden, who is hoping to keep his place in an unchanged starting XI at the Frankfurt Arena on Thursday night, was the subject of much debate after the tense 1-0 win against Serbia last ­Sunday. Southgate does not subscribe to the view that the Manchester City attacker is struggling to produce his outstanding club form for England.

“I thought Phil did an exceptional job for us on Sunday,” Southgate said. “Other players grabbed the attention, but the way he worked for the team, defended the spaces, real intelligence in how he played. Towards the end of the game, he retained the ball for us in really crucial moments. We were happy with what Phil did.

“There’s going to be a narrative – a player, a couple of players – after every England game. This is a dif­ferent world to the one you ­experience at clubs. The players recognise that now after the last couple of days.

“We talked with them about it. It’s very rare at their club they’d win a game and experience what they’ve experienced over the last couple of days.

I have to make sure I can guide them through that, let them understand it and recognise it’s the reality of our world but that we shouldn’t be thrown off track by it. We’re in a good position.”

One of the most notable comments about England’s approach against Serbia came from Erik ten Hag, who was working as a pundit on Dutch television. The Manchester United manager suggested that Southgate’s vision is to sit back after going 1-0 up. Southgate responded by noting that bringing on Jarrod Bowen, Conor Gallagher and Kobbie Mainoo helped England to restore control during the second half.

“During the course of a tournament there’s obviously millions of opinions in different directions and so whilst I’m not reading a thing, or listening to a thing, you become aware of these things because they get sent to you,” he said.

“There was a moment where we weren’t in as much control of the game on Sunday as we would have liked. I think there are moments where you’re in control and you can push forward, moments where you’ve got a dif­ferent problem to solve. Every coach would reflect on that. I was really pleased with Gallagher, Kobbie and Bowen.”

Related: Unimpressed by England’s start in Germany? At least it’s not Euro 88

Southgate acknowledged that ­England did not keep the ball well enough against Serbia but he was positive about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance in midfield. The Liverpool defender is likely to be given another opportunity in that role.

Southgate had hoped that Shaw, who has not played since ­February, would be on the bench against ­Denmark. But the left-back was not involved in team training on Wednesday and Ten Hag has predicted that Shaw will not be ready before the end of the group stage.

“Luke is progressing as we thought he would,” Southgate said. “There was a moment last week where we thought he could be a couple of days ahead of schedule but more realistically we are looking to the back end of this week and early next, and we are not unhappy with that progress at all, and we are still positive he can make a contribution as we move forward.”

Southgate added Denmark would be out for revenge after a contentious penalty led to their semi‑final defeat against England at Euro 2020. “We are very clear on the messaging we give to the players and what the mindset of an opponent might be,” he said.

“It’s an important part of psychologically preparing our team.”