‘He writes his own script’: Southgate delights in Jude Bellingham’s impact

<span>Jude Bellingham salutes the travelling <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a> fans in Gelsenkirchen.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>

Gareth Southgate said that Jude ­Bellingham writes his own scripts after the midfielder’s goal ensured England began Euro 2024 with a nervy win against Serbia.

Bellingham, who rejected the negativity around the team’s perfor­mance on a tense night in ­Gelsenkirchen, headed in the winning goal in the 13th minute and was the best player on the pitch for long spells.

Related: Serbia 0-1 England: player ratings from the Euro 2024 Group C game

“He writes his own script,” ­England’s head coach said. “The timing of his runs, it was a super bit of play in the buildup to the goal as well. I think all of our forward ­players looked really good. I am confident we will score goals.

“Playing against a back five, it is not easy to create chances and we did. I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week.”

England tired and sat deep in the second half but Southgate was pleased with a clean sheet. “First half we used the ball really well,” he said. “We expended a lot of energy in the first half and a lot of players haven’t had 90 minutes for a while and I was worried about that.

“We didn’t keep the ball quite as well and then Serbia had to come. We had less control. I’m pleased we showed a different side. We showed resilience to defend the box. As a group that builds spirit. We defended well as a unit. Our team ran out of energy – that didn’t surprise me – but the subs came on and helped us. We can be more efficient.”


Southgate, who was delighted with Marc Guéhi’s performance in central defence, handed Trent ­Alexander-Arnold a start in midfield. “He has been really diligent in getting his positioning right,” he said of the Liverpool player. “I think he adapted and adjusted really well and used the ball well. We have got a squad and we need to use it.”

England, who are top of Group C after Denmark’s 1-1 draw with Slovenia, were criticised for being passive in the second half. Yet Bellingham preferred to focus on the positives.

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“I think the first half shows why we can score against any team and the second half shows how we can keep a clean sheet against any team,” the 20-year-old said. “I think commonly with the team there is a negative ­feeling around all our games, sometimes rightly so, but I think in this case you take the positives.

“We had to hold on at times and suffer a little bit but when you keep a clean sheet, all you have to do is score one goal to win a game. It’s three points, I think this team is still so new, gelling together with every game. Inside the changing room we’ll be happy with that. It’s special to score any time for England and especially a match-winning goal.”

Bellingham was asked whether he enjoyed England fans serenading him with Hey Jude. “I like the ­Beatles, I listen to the Beatles a lot,” he said. “My style of music is a bit old so that’s right up my street. I really enjoy ­playing in front of the England fans – it’s a different experience for me because I play abroad. When I can hear an English crowd for the first time every few months I really enjoy it and it gives me a lot of appreciation and a lot of  love.”

Harry Kane was content despite a quiet night up front. “We knew it’s going to be a tough game,” England’s captain said. “Serbia pose some good threats and I thought we dealt with it. We deserve the win. In the group it’s just about getting through.”