There are plenty who will feel they have points to prove for England over these Nations League games starting on Saturday night – and Gareth Southgate should be top of the list.
It is not the World Cup for all that we are in a decent group and there are no Mickey Mouse games. You cannot replicate the pressure that is going to be on Gareth and his side when we get to Qatar. But what these four games against Hungary, Germany, Italy and Hungary again offer is a golden chance to show that we have moved on from the European Championships.
And for me it is the boss who has to show he has learned lessons. Gareth had a great opportunity in the Euros. If they were a boxer they had Italy on the ropes 1-0 up in the final and they were all over them. Instead of going for the killer blow they put their arms up and tried to defend it. That was Gareth’s big mistake and he has to show he has changed. Gareth played centre-half and he was a top centre-half; I know because I played with him at Villa and England. He was a very, very good centre-half.
That has been his football all his career though – being a defensive player – and naturally you are going to have that sort of instinct as a manager as well. It is understandable. What I want to see is him throwing off the shackles because if we are going to win the World Cup we are not going to defend our way to it in Qatar, certainly not with the defence we’ve got.
If we are going to win it we have to get on the front foot and play with a little bit more flamboyance at times. We have the talent to do that but key to it is that Gareth has to trust his flair players a bit more. That’s not to say you go all gung-ho and say: 'Right you have a shot' we’ll have a shot and we’ll back ourselves to win'.
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But there are certain times in games where you simply have to go for it. In the final against Italy, we started off so well, went 1-0 up and then went back into our shells. I wanted to see them go for it, just for 20 or 30 minutes. Score a goal then and we win the European Championships. The worst thing that would have happened was that it would have gone 1-1, which it did in the end anyway.
Gareth has to get us a little more open at certain times in games because in the World Cup we are going to be coming up against the crème de la crème players. Even if we score, believe me you can’t defend for 70 minutes or 80 minutes if you have gone 1-0 up against them. They will break you down. Hungary, Germany and Italy are all proper sides and it is an opportunity for Gareth to show us he’s learned. We have got to get players worrying about us; not us worrying about them.
Bale offers Wales edge over Ukraine
What we saw from Ukraine at Hampden Park on Wednesday night was heart-warming but I reckon Wales could prove a step too far for them tomorrow. First things first, Ukraine played well and fully deserved to win.
Those Scotland players might look back on that night in 20 or 30 years time and think: ‘Wow, what an opportunity that was'. Two games to get to the World Cup. But the trouble was they were poor and more than that they have no match-winners, no world-class players.
Wales on the other hand do, and while it would be the end of a fairytale, Ukraine are going to have to pull something very, very special out of the bag to get past them in Cardiff. Gareth Bale walks into any team in the world and he turns up for Wales. It is a difficult game but they have got the big players and that could be the difference.
With what’s going on in the background for Ukraine, every neutral in the world will be rooting for them. Wales will have to leave everything on the pitch to get past them. It is going to be a cracking game but I can see the hosts edging it.
Munich warning for Mane
It seems clear Sadio Mane has his heart set on a move to Bayern Munich but I can’t for the life of me see why. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence and there are no guarantees that he will be as successful in Germany as he has been with Liverpool.
Since his arrival from Southampton six years ago Liverpool have played a way that suits his game and goals could dry up in a different set up and a different league. It is a brave move to make if he wants a fresh challenge and is backing himself to make a success of it.
His relationship with Klopp and the club has been so good that the club will have known about this for a while and they will have been planning to recover and renew up front.
There may still be a bit of wrangling to be done over the fee because at the £25million which was talked about last week it ain’t going to happen. Add another £10m on and, with just a year left on his deal, it might but I just don’t know why he wants to leave Liverpool in the first place.
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