This is England’s time. If Gareth Southgate and his players — a very, very strong group — want to be remembered as more than the bridesmaids they have become, they have to win next summer’s European Championship.

Can they do that with Southgate as manager? Yes, if he takes the handbrake off and allows a team who are good enough to beat anyone to go and do so.

Southgate has done a good job in seven years, but he could have done better. England could have been the bride at both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2020. My criticism would be that he is too much like a counter-puncher in boxing. His teams come out and feel their way into a game. It is rarely with the attitude of, ‘We’re just going to out-score you’.

As a player, you want to be on the front foot. I go back to when I was at Liverpool. We were made to feel we were the best. It was as simple as, ‘You match them across the corridor for effort and you win the game, because you’re better than them’. That made you feel 10 feet tall.

England should have no one to fear. France apart, all the major European teams are weak. I’ve never known a weaker Spain, Germany or Italy. Spain have Alvaro Morata up front, and he has been a nearly man at all the big clubs in Europe.

As a player you want to be on the front foot, but England's boss is more of a counter-puncher

As a player you want to be on the front foot, but England’s boss is more of a counter-puncher

England should fear no one at Euro 2024, with a squad stuffed full of world-class talents

England should fear no one at Euro 2024, with a squad stuffed full of world-class talents 

Southgate has achieved during his time in charge, but I want him to be more adventurous

Southgate has achieved during his time in charge, but I want him to be more adventurous

Even against France, in the World Cup quarter-final, England started in the usual conservative way but, when they went behind, they went after France and were the better side. You look back and think, ‘Why did you not start in a more positive frame of mind?’

This comes back to Southgate not needing to play two holding midfielders. Declan Rice is most definitely good enough to do that job on his own. He has the athleticism and the brain to sense and eliminate threats. 

Get another attacking player in there. They have been lacking creativity at times and the best creative player in English football has been, for a number of years, James Maddison.

OK, Maddison is injured, but there has been a reluctance to throw him in. I would play him just off Harry Kane, and Kane would love playing with him. Southgate has the players to win tournaments and this, for him, is a wonderful opportunity.

If you look at his managerial career — relegated from the top flight with Middlesbrough, going to England Under 21s and then ending up with the big job — it was a case of right place, right time, and he has been lucky with the pool of talent he has got.

But that is management, and the best example is international football. Your job depends on what the country has produced at that particular moment. 

You have next-to-no time with the players. You are not going to make them better. It is about getting them organised and creating a feel-good factor around the place.

Southgate has achieved that, but I want him to be more adventurous and back his team to be the best. If not, he and supporters of England could be left wondering about what might have been.

James Maddison (left) when fit, would look impressive partnering captain Harry Kane in attack

James Maddison (left) when fit, would look impressive partnering captain Harry Kane in attack

France pose the greatest threat next summer - I've never seen a weaker Spain or Germany

France pose the greatest threat next summer – I’ve never seen a weaker Spain or Germany

I’m staggered Ten Hag was not at Sir Bobby’s funeral

I have to say, I found Erik ten Hag not being present at Sir Bobby Charlton’s funeral quite bewildering.

We were told he had a longstanding commitment in the Netherlands. Maybe it was a very valid reason, I do not know, the club has given us no indication as to its nature.

But I cannot ignore my initial reaction, and that was one of being totally staggered. Sir Bobby was Mr Manchester United. He was responsible for the most recent glory period at the club as much as Sir Alex Ferguson, because he kept Fergie in the job in the late eighties.

For me, if I am a Man United supporter or connected to the club, you want your current manager at the funeral.

Sterling shows why Simon is wrong

I read Simon Jordan’s comments regarding Raheem Sterling on these pages this week, and his belief that the Chelsea winger has justifiably been left out of the England squad on form. OK, let’s look at it a different way. If you’re a full back, would you rather play against Sterling or Jack Grealish? I think 10 out of 10 would rather play against Grealish.

Sterling is more dangerous than him. Defenders are terrified of pace and directness. Grealish threatens to go down the line, does a couple of stepovers and then cuts inside and plays the ball square nearly every time. Sterling goes at you and, as a defender, you’re praying you have a team-mate covering you.

We’re seeing less and less of Grealish at Manchester City, and more of Jeremy Doku. Would you want to play against Doku? No, because he’s more like Sterling.

That’s a tremendous option to have if you’re Gareth Southgate. Surely, he must have watched Sterling’s performance in Chelsea’s 4-4 draw with City and altered his thinking? He was fabulous, sprinting at people, doing the hard yards — which can be so easily overlooked — and showing a real determination not to lose, and that can be infectious.

And by the way, that game, I loved every minute. If you’re watching that abroad, you won’t be buying any packages to watch German, Spanish or Italian football. This was the real deal — top players, wintery conditions, playing the game the right way. It wasn’t a 4-4 laced with error, it was football of the highest quality.

Raheem Sterling would sstill a tremendous option for Southgate

Raheem Sterling had a star turn in the thrilling contest between Chelsea and Man City

Forget dad, Aaron, this is your fight

It is time for Aaron Ramsdale to do his own fighting, rather than his dad doing it for him after his appearance on a podcast this week.

The Arsenal goalkeeper has to show what he is made of and deal with the situation in which he finds himself. Mikel Arteta fancies David Raya more than he does Ramsdale right now, but that can change.

I would ask him to look at the example of Harry Maguire. He took all the criticism on the chin, all the disappointment. He dealt with it and finds himself back in the team at Manchester United. Scott McTominay, too. He was being pushed out the door at the start of the season, and now he’s in the side. That’s football.

For Ramsdale, this a tough, mental challenge. He cannot point to anything he’s done wrong on a consistent basis that has cost him his place in the team. Sport at the highest level can be cruel and can be seen to be unfair.

But there is only one person who can right that perceived injustice — and it’s not Ramsdale’s dad.

Aaron Ramsdale should keep his head down and focus on his football - he could see himself emulating Harry Maguire at Man United this season

Aaron Ramsdale should keep his head down and focus on his football – he could see himself emulating Harry Maguire at Man United this season

Squad depth will be the next step of Newcastle’s evolution 

We are seeing the emotional and physical strain of a first season back in the Champions League on Newcastle, and their results are becoming predictable.

That will be hard for fans to accept because their team have been flying the past 12 months. But I watched them during last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth and they had nothing to give, almost from the off.

This is all part of the evolution of where they’re at as a club. It is a new experience — the travelling, the big stadiums, the legendary clubs they’re facing. It is no surprise to see the number of injuries they’re carrying. They play the game at full throttle, too, and that will be taking its toll.

Football is a game of small margins, and if their players are anything less than 100 per cent, a match won or lost can be decided by closing down a player half a yard slower. They’re feeling that at the moment, and it should tell the owners they need a deeper squad of quality going into next season.

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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