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Gareth Southgate makes England call over Man City stars and warns of ‘line’ in celebrations

Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kalvin Phillips joined up with the Three Lions after winning the Champions League final - and enjoying the aftermath

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Friday 16 June 2023 08:00 BST
(Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate says “there is a line”, as he revealed he has privately spoken to Jack Grealish and Manchester City players about the extent of their treble celebrations.

The England manager refused to directly discuss his playmaker, after Grealish visibly made himself the centre of a three-day party that also involved a trip to Ibiza. There is a belief around the squad that Southgate was unhappy with just how excessive the celebrations were, although he stressed that he does plan to use the City players for at least some part of Friday night’s match away to Malta.

“There is a line,” the manager said in Valletta, when directly asked. Although he was repeatedly questioned about Grealish, Southgate just talked more generally about celebrations, while also saying he would keep all discussions in-house.

“Anything like that I would do privately,” he added. “So I don’t think that would serve any purpose me discussing that publicly, really.

”I think that, as I said, I have spoken with the players. We have talked about where the focus needs to be, where we need them to be and acknowledged what they have experienced and that’s for me to manage over the coming weeks.”

England face forgiving fixtures away to Malta on Friday and at home to North Macedonia on Monday at Old Trafford. Southgate said he hadn't planned on starting the City players in Valletta, but that he has been thinking of bringing them on.

“I have got a good squad to pick from. We weren’t considering those boys to start this game. We were hopeful they could play some part and that is still the case. But with the tactical preparation that we knew we needed to do earlier in the week, we always knew they were going to report Tuesday night, Wednesday was going to be light and Thursday the usual light session. So unless we had a problem we were not aiming to put those players into this game.

“For now the focus with all of the Man City boys is just get them right for these games. So inevitably we just don’t know what that emotional dip is going to be for them. They need to recover, they need to sleep, they need to eat well and we want to get them ready. I’ve seen enough to know what could help us tomorrow and then Monday is a few days further on. We’ll have to see what we come out of this game with as much as anything else, really.”

Southgate admitted that his stance on such issues has to be firm, since it is the nature of players to monitor his response and see where the lines are.

(Getty Images)

“They look at every meeting you hold, every discussion you have. They are always assessing how you deal with situations. They look for a lead and for clues in how you deal with things. I don’t think they would have felt anything usual about how we have dealt with this and how we have embraced the players back in to the group. We have also got the dynamic that while they are chuffed to bits and we are proud of them, a few others are pretty pissed off that they have won it at their expense. You are always really conscious of that.”

Southgate did admit that the very scale of the Champions League final as a fixture is part of it, too, as he takes over England's most successful ever squad in that regard.

“We’ve been through this scenario three or four times in the last few years with our players leading into games... It’s a huge occasion. So we’re in a fortunate position that we’ve got a lot of our players in for the full training week and we were able to work tactically.

“And we needed to give those guys the time to take everything in. But point number one, they all wanted to come in to be with the group, which is fantastic. And as I said to them – we are all in the unknown a little bit. We’ve had teams in the Champions League but we haven’t had a team that has won a treble so for that group of players and staff, things will never be the same again because you never get that group together again and everything changes in their lives.

“Whenever you have a group with us, it’s always slightly different [every time] – you’re always monitoring where every individual is at. We have potentially so many things going on this summer that could distract if we allow it to but I’ve not seen that this week with the players. The focus has been good.”

Southgate did reflect on the game's evolving attitude to alcohol, which is of course one reason why Grealish's celebrations stood out all the more.

“A few of our players would be teetotal. What is different is that everyone posts everything. I wouldn’t have liked a few of my nights out to be posted publicly. My generation would have been in a lot more problems.”

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