Defiant Southgate refusing to yield to pressure from Premier League bosses

Next summer, an entire nation will demand England and Gareth Southgate get the people out on to the streets and give the country something to smile about.

In under eight months’ time, Southgate and his players will either be lionised or demonised after the delayed Euro 2020.

Yet, led by club managers, there is a long, snaking queue of people who deride his preparation matches.

All Premier League coaches’ eyes will be on Southgate’s team-sheet for the game against Iceland.

Jose Mourinho has already poured scorn on this international break, the rest probably feel the same.

But Southgate is growing increasingly defiant, refusing to yield to subtle pressure from those Premier League bosses.

Southgate has sent a message to Premier League bosses

He says: “We are representing 50 million people and we are trying to prepare for the European Championships.

“We have had seven games in 12 months and we have got four more games in the next four or five months to prepare for the European Championships.

“In terms of the Premier League managers, there’s a power game the whole time and whether that is phone calls, messages, press conferences, we know everything that goes on.

“But when it comes to the games we’ve got now, we need to play – we’ve got four matches in the next five months and we have to learn something from all of them.”

Southgate even believes some clubs would probably have not been concerned had their players pulled out of England duty.

But he also knows he has developed a squad spirit that means that everyone wants to play.

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He explains: “The players are in a really difficult situation. They are under huge pressure from their clubs.

“That is going on in the background, for sure. That is the landscape whether it is made public or not. That is the reality. It manifests itself in different ways but that is what happens.

“But the players want to play for England. They want to achieve personal landmarks. They want to win caps. They want to score goals.

“They want to do well as a team. They are mates. Having played for my country, I understand that.

“This is the pinnacle and you don’t get the chance to do it very often.”

Southgate is clearly becoming increasingly fed up with the club versus country arguments, pointing out the priorities of England’s elite rivals.

He says: “There is all this noise in the background but we’ve got to remember that we are competing against France, who pick all their players, Spain, who pick all their players, Portugal, who pick all their players, Brazil, Italy.

“The expectation here is to try to win but there’ll be lots of areas where we’re competing against the flow, but we’ve got to make sure the bits that we can control we are firm on. We need to prepare.”

That’s why the game against Iceland is anything but a dead rubber for Southgate and why Jack Grealish could get a third start in a week.

Grealish has become THE man of the moment, a scenario Southgate believes the Aston Villa midfielder can handle, saying: “I think he will be able to handle the attention because he’s a player that thrives under that pressure.

“He’s had a super start to his international career. He’s got great courage with the ball so I don’t think that will faze him.”

Just, it seems, as heat from Premier League bosses will not faze this particular England manager.

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