England boss Gareth Southgate to resist ‘knee-jerk reaction’ against Slovenia

Gareth Southgate will resist any “knee-jerk reaction” to England’s stuttering start to Euro 2024 as they look to end the group stage with a vastly improved performance against Slovenia.

The road to Berlin has begun in unconvincing fashion, with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Serbia followed by a disjointed display in the 1-1 draw with Denmark.

Days of criticism and scrutiny have followed but Southgate claims to be “oblivious” to comments from outspoken former England players like Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

The 53-year-old has long since learned to block out background noise and is confident things will improve as they go for the win against Slovenia that will see them top Group C.

“Well, the big risk is you have a knee-jerk reaction and you move away from things that are going well,” Southgate said.

“You can rip everything up and go in a completely different direction but what’s actually going well? We don’t want to lose what’s going well.

“Then it’s ‘OK, how can we add to what we’re doing?’ Your best players are still your best players.

“We might not have functioned as a team as we would have liked for a large part of the second game and a half of the first game.

“But that doesn’t mean what we’ve been doing for the last two years, in particular, and the period before that… we shouldn’t be throwing everything out of the window.

“That’s where we have to stay calm, make sensible decisions, make the right calls, keep everybody on track.

“We were pretty certain four points would qualify us and then it’s about winning the group.

“We’ve trodden this path before. We’re exactly where we were points-wise in the last Euros – scored a goal more and conceded a goal more.”

England sit atop of Group C on four points ahead of facing Slovenia and have already qualified for the round of 16 following Albania’s failure to beat Spain on Monday evening.

But the Euro 2020 runners-up do not want to stumble through as they seek to build momentum heading into the knockout phase.

“We haven’t quite seen that (identity) in the first couple of games and there was a need to have a reset button and have open and honest conversations but that is a reflection (involving everybody),” Southgate said.

“We reflect as a coaching team. The players are reflective.

“So, nobody has been ducking anything this week, nobody has been alone in their thoughts. It’s a real collective because we’re all on the same page.

“That allows us to assess where we were and how we need to progress in the same direction.”

Gary Lineker, right, stands with Gareth Southgate
Gary Lineker, right, has been critical of England’s performances so far (John Walton/PA)

There is a palpable determination around the team heading into the group finale, in part fuelled by external criticism that some of the England team has felt lacked perspective.

But Southgate – in charge of his fourth major tournament having gone to four as a player – is only interested in the task at hand.

“My job is not to think about what is going on externally,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Cologne.

“My job is to focus on the team, be really clear on the feedback to the team, that we are having honest conversations and that we don’t duck any issues, that we debrief games really thoroughly.

“Internally we would be our own biggest critics I think. Alongside that we remain balanced and keep perspective because we also have to remind the players of the position we hold in the group and that we have control of the group and now the objective is to win the group as well.”