Jack Grealish thinks the criticism of Gareth Southgate this summer has been “very harsh” given the success he has enjoyed during that time as England manager.
With the nation still in the hunt for a first senior men’s trophy since 1966, the Three Lions have never been closer to Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes than at the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England into a run to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago that was as surprising as it was unforgettable, before last summer dragged the country into a penalty shootout of the glory of Euro 2020.
But the former defender never shied away from criticism and came under fire after a tough four-game Nations League game in June ended in a 4-0 defeat at Molineux by a barely-there Hungary. whimsical.
“I think it was tough,” fan favorite Grealish said of the reaction to Southgate.
“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, the last time we lost a game in 90 minutes, maybe it was Belgium in November 2020 or something.
“So I think it’s very tough, especially (as you saw at) the World Cup and the Euros from the performance of the team and the manager himself.
“I thought it was obviously tough, but sometimes that’s what you get if you’re English. I certainly had my fair share!
Grealish, the £100million man, knows a thing or two about scrutiny.
The 27-year-old was already in the limelight ahead of last summer’s big move from Aston Villa to Manchester City, but that has only intensified things for the attacking midfielder.
Grealish scored his first goal of the season in Wolves’ 3-0 defeat on Saturday, Kevin De Bruyne suggesting after England players like him were unfairly targeted due to the nation’s mentality of criticizing their own.
The Belgium international’s view was presented to Grealish, who smiled and told the reporter: “I’m going to ask you, aren’t I?”
When the reporter said he agreed, the England international said with a laugh: “I don’t know, I want to be friends with you all!
“I can obviously see where he’s coming from a bit.
“But I think that’s how it is in this country, especially if you’re myself, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, which wins trophies every year.
“And obviously when I get the price on my head, people will want to talk. It’s just something I need (continue).
“I keep coming back to it, saying kiss him and it’s just an integral part, really. But, yeah, I kind of see where he’s coming from.
Grealish appears to be taking it all – both good and bad – in his stride, something he will continue to do in England’s Nations League double-header.
The Three Lions will be relegated if they lose the San Siro clash against Italy on Friday before facing Germany on Monday – the last game of their last side 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 all embrace,” Grealish said.
“Above all, I won’t speak on behalf of the manager, but I’m sure he has certain players who are 100% to go to the World Cup, and then there are obviously certain places and certain numbers which are still at win. We all train as usual.
“We now have two games which are going to be very tough opposition and it’s really like your pre-World Cup camp.
“We were saying before that before the Euros we had a few good weeks of training, good friendlies, and we’re not going to have that this time.
“But everyone is in the same boat, so it’s something we have to embrace and look forward to.”
Grealish has been quick to treat England fans since making his debut in September 2020, but the fact that 11 of his 23 caps have come on as substitutes underlines the work needed to step up.
“I would love to be (a starter) but then again I know what impact I can make from the bench,” he added. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘this is what I am – someone who just comes along.
“I started a Euro game and got an assist, which made me overjoyed.
“The manager is the manager and if he and his team decide to play me I will give my all and also if I am on the bench I am ready to become an impact sub.”