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Sunday 22 July 2018

Southgate blasts talk of Sterling bench role after snap

England boss insists leaked photo makes no difference for Panama tie

MADE OF STONE: John Stones is likely to resume defensive duties against Panama tomorrow
MADE OF STONE: John Stones is likely to resume defensive duties against Panama tomorrow
England manager Gareth Southgate
England coach Steve Holland
A picture of Steve Holland's notes that appeared to show Sterling would be dropped for the game

England manager Gareth Southgate has questioned whether the media was right to publish pictures of apparent team line-up plans for the Panama game - but insisted it was "no drama".

A photographer captured a note carried by assistant manager Steve Holland in training that looked to give away England's intentions ahead of the second Group G match in Nizhny Novgorod tomorrow.

The England boss, who suffered a dislocated shoulder while out running earlier this week, played down the tactical significance of the information which was revealed.

Southgate said: "It doesn't bother me in the slightest. It is a squad of 23 names on the sheet, the next sheet has different players in different positions because we swap people in and swap people out. The stories are then run as they are. For me, no drama.

"Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it's a disadvantage to us. So of course our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not.

"Given that was just a squad list, it doesn't make any difference to us really."

Help

Defender Kyle Walker was also asked about the leaked note - and, like Southgate, urged the media to keep any information to themselves in order to help the national team.

After revealing the players had not been told the starting XI a couple of days in advance, as had been the case for the opening game against Tunisia, the Manchester City right-back asked the press to do the "polite" thing.

Walker said: "I think if you guys try to keep it to yourself and don't bring it out to the world, because it's not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament, please God we get there. All the rest of the world's seen our team now, if that is the team or if not...

"As I say, you guys have to do your little bit, so if you could just please help us with that it would be polite."

Walker said Holland had apologised to the squad at yesterday's training session for allowing the picture to be taken.

"He's apologised to us all in training, which we had a bit of banter with him about, and that was it - we knocked it on the head at that," the defender added.

Walker, who conceded a penalty in England's 2-1 opening Group G win over Tunisia, was asked if the players had been told of the starting line-up to face Panama.

"No. We don't have a clue," the 28-year-old said.

"Obviously before, he (Southgate) did give us a couple of days as to who's playing or not, but he's going to do it tomorrow so we'll find out tomorrow."

Meanwhile, John Stones is thankful to Southgate for keeping the faith during his difficult end to the season - and World Cup rival Vincent Kompany for inadvertently boosting England's chances.

Stones was taken aback when described as England's defensive kingpin, yet he has established himself at the heart of the back three and started his nation's last nine matches.

It is a far cry from life at City. Stones struggled for game time in 2018 and missed two months towards the end of the season, yet Southgate's faith never wavered. Gareth's shown a lot of faith in me. I can't express enough how thankful I am for that," he said.

"Sometimes you're in difficult spots as players where form's not right and he's got a difficult decision to make whether 'should I play him or not'."

Stones is learning a lot from Southgate, just as he is from City boss Pep Guardiola and skipper Kompany. "I remember Vinnie was injured in my first season, and this season obviously, but he got some clips that he wanted to help me out with," Stones said of "class act" and "born winner" Kompany.

"We speak after games and how things went. For someone to do that and try to help me as a young player, it says a lot about the person."

  • Group G (tomorrow), England v Panama, Live RTE2/BBC (KO 1.0)

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