Jack Grealish believes criticism of Gareth Southgate over the summer was “very harsh” given the success he’s had as England manager during that time.
While the nation has still been searching for a first senior trophy since 1966, the Three Lions have never been closer to matching Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes than the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England to a surprising and unforgettable run to the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago, before the country went into a penalty shoot-out for Euro 2020 glory last summer.
But the former defender has never strayed far from criticism and came under fire after a challenging four-game slog in the Nations League ended in a 4-0 Molineux mole against the unpopular Hungary in June.
“I think it was tough,” said fan favorite Grealish of the Southgate reaction.
“We reached the final last year and then the game against Hungary (we lost 1-0) at the start of the last camp. I think before that was the last time we lost a game over 90 minutes, maybe Belgium was in November 2020 or something.
“So, I think it’s very tough, especially (as you’ve seen) the World Cup and the Euros, how well the team and the manager himself have done.
“I obviously found it hard, but sometimes it happens when you’re English. I’ve certainly had my fair share!’
Grealish, the £100m man, knows a thing or two about control.
The 27-year-old was already in the spotlight before Aston Villa’s move to Manchester City last summer but that only made things worse for the attacking midfielder.
Grealish scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wolves, prompting Kevin De Bruyne to hint that English players like himself were being unfairly targeted because the nation was criticizing itself.
The Belgium international’s point of view was directed at Grealish, who smiled and said to the journalist: “I’ll ask you, right?”
When the reporter said he agreed, the England international laughed: “I don’t know – I want to be friends with you all!
“I can obviously see a bit where he’s coming from.
“But I think that’s how it is in this country, especially when you play for one of the biggest clubs in the world yourself, who win trophies every year.
“And when I have the price tag on my head that I have, obviously people are going to want to talk. It’s just something I need to get on with.
“I keep coming back to it and saying, take it and it’s really just a part and a package. But yeah, I see a bit where he’s coming from.”
Grealish seems to take it all – both good and bad – with ease, which he will do in England’s crunch Nations League doubleheader.
The Three Lions will be relegated when they lose to Italy at the San Siro on Friday before taking on old opponents Germany on Monday – the last game of their last camp before the start of the World Cup in November.
“I think for us it’s something that we’re obviously aware of, but something that we’re all embracing,” Grealish said.
“First of all, I won’t speak for the manager, but I’m sure he has certain players who will be 100 per cent going to the World Cup and then of course there are certain places and numbers that are still up for grabs. We all train normally.
“We have two games now that are going to be very tough and that’s really like your camp before the World Cup.
“We said before that we had a good few weeks with training sessions and good friendlies ahead of the EURO and we won’t achieve that this time.
“But everyone’s in the same boat, so we have to embrace it and look forward to it.”
Grealish has quickly endeared himself to English fans since his debut in September 2020, but the fact that 11 of his 23 caps have been played as a substitute underscores the work required to climb the ladder.
“I’d love to be (from the start), but then again, I know what impact I can make off the bench,” he added. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘That’s me – someone who just shows up’.
“I started a game at Euro and got an assist which I was over the moon about.
“The manager is the manager and if he and his staff decide to play me I will give it my all and even if I’m on the bench I’m ready to come on as an impact sub.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/jack-grealish-gareth-southgate-england-nations-league-hungary-b2171750.html Criticism of Gareth Southgate in the summer ‘very harsh’, says Jack Grealish