England’s Southgate blocks social media to filter ‘noise’

Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday that he is blocking out social media in an effort to help England win Euro 2024, as the Three Lions prepare to face Denmark on Thursday, knowing a win would seal round-of-16 qualification from Group C.

England are in that position courtesy of last Sunday’s 1-0 opening victory over Serbia, but their errant and fatigued second-half display in Gelsenkirchen raised questions over whether Southgate’s side can live up to their pre-tournament billing as favourites.

Asked how both he and his squad dealt with online media reaction to England’s performances, Southgate said: “There’s no point having a rule because young men are going to use social media, in a positive way in the main. They are going to search for things. When I was playing, we read newspapers.

“I don’t do it. My world is a happier place if I shut myself off. It is not good from a global perspective because I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in politics or events elsewhere. But for the next month that is going to be a better place for me. So that helps me really keep on track.

“I think some of our players take a similar approach, others will definitely look at stuff. Of course, it doesn’t stop people sending you a message ‘saying ignore the nonsense’ or whatever it might be. So you go ‘Oh, OK, it’s kicking off, usual thing.’

“You know that from the line of questioning anyway really. Look, it is what it is. There’s more noise around a national team than there ever is around a club team. Millions of people in your own country, extensive media coverage, social media, one guy writing a comment on social media gets put in a newspaper now, that’s a story. So it’s a different world.

“Personally I accept that’s how it is. It is not going to affect what I do. My job is to keep the players on track. What are the realities? What are we doing well? What do we need to be better at? Where actually are we?

“Because you can drift and you can see them, a lot of them who haven’t been with England, say ‘Right, OK, we’ve won our first game and this is how it is.’ That’s a strange experience for some of the boys who haven’t been with us.

“It’s great that we have experienced players that have lived through it who can say ‘no, no, no, this is what’s important, this is how we stay on track.’ Our assessment of the game is the most important.

“We are never slow to pull things up that aren’t right, that aren’t good enough. That’s the most important view — the way we dissect the game and, of course, we have all the information around what’s going on as well.”

England have won all four of their opening matches at a tournament under Southgate, but they had never won their first game at a European Championships prior to his appointment in 2016 and are aiming to win their opening two games at a Euros for the first time ever.

Asked if England’s chequered history was often forgotten, Southgate replied: “I’ve been in this environment for eight years so I understand it all, it used to annoy me. Now I’m ambivalent to it.

“Winning matches in tournaments is incredibly hard. This tournament, you’ve now got the extra dimension of incredible support for all the teams in the stadiums. That’s a little bit different to the last two tournaments we’ve been in.

“Look, we’ve had some great results over the years, so maybe even we take wins for granted which we shouldn’t. I should definitely let the boys enjoy the wins more than I do.

“I get about 45 seconds of enjoyment. The whistle blows, I cuddle everybody, I walk off the pitch and that’s it. I hope they have a little bit longer than that. There should be more joy in it, but that’s not my reality if I’m frank. So my focus is get qualified from the group, which we’ve got two tough opponents but two games to achieve that and I’m not looking beyond tomorrow night’s game at this moment in time.”

Meanwhile, Southgate has defended Phil Foden‘s contribution to beating Serbia by praising his work without the ball rather than “the sexy bit everybody wants to see.”

Foden was unable to affect the game in Gelsenkirchen to the extent he has so often done for Manchester City in their latest Premier League winning campaign last season.

“I thought Phil did an incredible job for the team on Sunday,” Southgate said. “You know, sometimes the bits with the ball are obvious and they catch the eye, but the amount of ground he covered, the angles of pressing, the filling in for people who were further forward.

“I thought without Phil’s contribution without the ball — and I know that’s not the sexy bit and everybody wants to see him on the ball — I don’t think we win the game.”

England are still without Luke Shaw, who is not fit to face Denmark as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.

The Three Lions close out group play on June 25 against Slovenia.