08 June 2024

Gareth Southgate excited by Jude Bellingham arrival but says collective is key

08 June 2024

Gareth Southgate is excited to be welcoming world-class Jude Bellingham into the camp but the England boss knows success at this summer’s Euros will need to be a collective effort.

The 20-year-old is basking in the afterglow of a dream first season in Spain, where he won LaLiga with Real Madrid and was named the competition’s best player.

Bellingham won the Bundesliga player of the year award last term and overcame former club Borussia Dortmund last weekend as Madrid won a 15th Champions League title.

The midfielder has enjoyed some well-deserved time off since that Wembley triumph, meaning he missed all of England’s pre-Euros training camp and both warm-up friendlies.

Bellingham links up with the squad on Sunday and is sure to start in next weekend’s Group C opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen, but Southgate knows it is about more than just his stardust.

“I’m sure he is (capable of handling the pressure) but we are not putting everything on Jude,” the England boss said.

“We’ve got a lot of good players and it is a collective thing to go and try to win this tournament. If we are relying on one person that isn’t going to be a team that wins.

“He is, of course, a player with fabulous mentality and will have a big impact on the whole group but the biggest thing over the last couple of games – and everyone was happy after Monday night – we’ve never had the collective together on the pitch at the same time.

“Maybe against Iceland it was a bit closer but there are still players we are finding out about and, for me, it really sharpens the focus of what we need to do leading into the game against Serbia.”

England beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in Bellingham’s absence on Monday, only to suffer a shock 1-0 loss to Iceland on Friday as the Wembley crowd let their frustrations known.

It was a difficult night that came hot on the heels of an emotional build-up after Southgate confirmed the seven players cut from the 33-man training group on Thursday.

We’ve got a lot of good players and it is a collective thing to go and try to win this tournament. If we are relying on one person that isn’t going to be a team that wins.

Asked if Bellingham will help lift the squad, Southgate said: “I’m sure he will but it is not his responsibility to do that.

“It is for all of us to get the focus right, to make sure individually our mentality is right and as a coaching team we will make sure we are working on the areas that need to be better than they were against Iceland.”

Southgate has plenty to mull over before facing Serbia, but he repeated that the formation is unlikely to be among his considerations.

Having utilised a back five at the 2018 World Cup and at times en route to the Euro 2020 final, he is planning to stick to a four-man defence in Germany despite absentees and recent wobbles.

“It’s not something we have talked about,” Southgate said. “It’s not a route we have been looking to go for sure.

“Availability of players changes what you may do and what profile of player you may play in certain positions.

“But we have been on a good path without the ball against top level opponents in Belgium and Brazil (in March). We didn’t get that right (against Iceland).”

In truth, there was not much England did get right against Iceland beyond players building rhythm and a few individual flashes of quality.

Cole Palmer won his fourth cap and was among those to stake his claim for a big role at the Euros, with Southgate agreeing he underlined his starting credentials.

“No question,” Southgate said of the Chelsea star. “He’s had a fabulous season and got himself into a couple of fabulous positions.

“He probably took a touch too many on both occasions, but the fact is he was in there on both occasions and looked dangerous.

“It was also good to get Bukayo (Saka) on the pitch. He has missed a lot of the training and we needed to see him out there as well.”

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