Belfast Telegraph

England boss Southgate takes sting out of team sheet drama

The England manager does not expect travelling media ‘to be supporters’.

Gareth Southgate has moved to quash the controversy over England’s ‘leaked’ training notes, likening the team’s relationship with the media to a strained family holiday.

Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland was pictured holding a list of player names during an open training session this week, which was reported as giving a possible tip-off about the starting XI to face Panama on Sunday.

Reacting initially to the stories, Southgate said “our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not”, but he used his official pre-match press conference in Nizhny Novgorod to take any sting out of the situation.

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Gareth Southgate’s England side face Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA)

Not only did the 47-year-old defend reporters’ right to act as impartial – rather than partisan – news gatherers, he also offered sympathy for the social media backlash some have faced and used a touch of good humour to settle the situation for good.

“My view is I totally understand the media have a role to report the news,” he said.

“My only observation, which I probably haven’t worded properly, is that it’s definitely an advantage for us or the opposition if you know the tactics of the other team. I don’t expect the media to be supporters of us in terms of the way they work. They’re here to work. I know they want us to do well. That’s been clear through the tournament.

“The guys have to find stories and produce content. We have to get results. We’re all living in a slightly false thing…like when you go on holiday with your family.

“After you’ve been away a while, you’re a little bit sick of certain people and less so with others. That social dynamic is probably a fascinating social study for us to compare notes at the
end.

“I understand a few of the guys have had a bashing on social media, so I apologise for that because I don’t wish it on anybody. I’ve had a bit of that myself.”

Southgate also underlined the fact that some of the assumptions – such as Marcus Rashford replacing Raheem Sterling in attack and Ruben Loftus-Cheek starting in place of the injured Dele Alli – were not necessarily true.

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The controversy over the ‘leaked’ training notes followed Thursday’s open training session (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Unlike opposite number Dario Hernan Gomez, who named an unchanged side on Saturday afternoon, he will not show his hand until the team sheet lands.

“The picture the other day wasn’t even the team, so it’s even less of a drama,” he said.

“It was a list of 23 players and people have taken something from it which probably isn’t correct.”

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