Tuesday 12 November 2019

Southgate: Youth will gro' with experience

England boss relishing tough trip

EURO TRIP: Declan Rice in training ahead of England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro tonight
EURO TRIP: Declan Rice in training ahead of England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro tonight

Gareth Southgate says he will have no hesitation about throwing his young stars into the potentially-intimidating environment of tonight's Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.

Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole were verbally abused and targeted with missiles when England travelled to Podgorica for a World Cup qualifier in 2013 and a similarly tough atmosphere is expected.

But Southgate said at a press conference: "This is part of their education and to be a top team we've got to adapt to every environment we go into.

"Friday at Wembley is always a different experience to going away from home in a qualifier, which is always difficult. But the only way the team can learn and improve is by going through these experiences."

Meanwhile midfielder Jordan Henderson shrugged off the potential milestone of achieving his 50th England cap in the match.

Henderson said: "I'm proud to play for my country but the type of person I am, I'll not really think about it too much. Maybe I'll think about it when I finish my career but at the moment I just want to concentrate on doing the best for my team.

"When I finish my career or my England career, then I can look back and decide if it was good or not."

Montenegro head coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic, meanwhile, has been searching for a weakness in the England team - but admits he cannot find one.

Montenegro have played England four times in the past and have lost once, drawing the other three - including both previous meetings at the Gradski Stadion.

Leicester defender Harry Maguire was singled out by Czech Republic forward Matej Vydra as a "weak link" in the England ranks ahead of Friday's game at Wembley - but Tumbakovic, who said his side cannot look at previous results as for inspiration this time out, disagreed.

Asked if he sees any weaknesses in the England squad, he replied: "I'm really trying but I can't.

England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Getty
England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Getty

"We in the coaching team who deal with the players are realistic.

"Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro, tomorrow we will play a match with totally different players, new coaches, with different capabilities and different ideas from both teams."

While Raheem Sterling was scoring a hat-trick as England saw off the Czech Republic on Friday night, Montenegro started their Group A campaign with a draw in Bulgaria.

Tumbakovic was pleased with how his team grew into the game but feels the performance will have to be better to get anything out of the meeting with England.

"The importance of the start of the qualifiers, the first game, brings its own importance, its own responsibilities," he added.

"Because of that there were special nerves in the players from both national teams, that is why there was a lack of quality that would have made that game even more beautiful than it was.

"Our performance in the second half was a lot better but still far away from the quality of football Montenegro can show in this competition.

"That is why I do believe this second game will be at a higher level than the first one - the model and the way the (England) national team plays is something special."

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