Belfast Telegraph

England aces need mental edge: Southgate

By Marcus Wright

Gareth Southgate believes there are things that can be done to improve the mental strength of his England players.

England received criticism in the summer following their exit to Iceland at the European Championships.

Roy Hodgson's players appeared to lack mental toughness and leadership after falling behind to the minnows and looked devoid of ideas and unable to adapt to things going wrong.

Former Under-21 boss Southgate, appointed as manager a month ago after impressing during a four-game spell in caretaker charge, thinks there are techniques he and his staff can use when they have the players but also when the squad are not on national duty.

One method he is using is getting the players more involved in tactical preparation.

He said: "The key is peaking mentally, arriving at tournaments as one of the genuine favourites, because over the two or three years in qualifying and against the big teams we have been outstanding.

"There are things we can work on with the team to develop mental strength. Mental resilience is generally a product of experiences you've been through, so we have to tap into those.

"We can't just rely on the 10 or 12 fixtures we have a year to develop that, we've got to put our players in some situations off the field to bring that on.

"In my career the coach stood at the front and delivered the tactical overview. What we've started to do with junior national teams is give the players more ownership of that sort of thing.

"We have to have more leaders out on the pitch. You need strong characters not only to make decisions but when the game is going against you who are going to step forward. A lot of that responsibility in recent years has fallen on Wayne Rooney's shoulders and that's got to be shared."

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