Dele Alli could repeat David Beckham’s mistake of being sent off at a World Cup unless he heeds the warnings about his temperament, according to former England midfielder Darren Anderton.
Alli is available for England’s final qualifier against Lithuania on Sunday after missing Thursday’s win over Slovenia through suspension. The midfielder was handed a one-match ban by FIFA for making an offensive gesture against Slovakia last month.
The incident continued Alli’s unfortunate knack of getting into trouble, with the 21-year-old already sitting out the first three games of Tottenham’s Champions League campaign following a dangerous tackle made back in February.
Alli’s talent is not in question. He is one of this country’s deadliest attackers but the youngster reminds Anderton of Beckham and his red card in 1998, when 10-man England were beaten by Argentina in the World Cup’s last 16.
“I remember Becks was a special talent and he had that bit about him,” said Anderton, who played 30 times for England.
“I remember Glenn Hoddle even warning Becks at Le Tournoi the year before. He got booked in a couple of games for something a bit petulant and Glenn said: ‘if you do that next year it could cost us’.
“Now of course the next year it happened. I don’t say it was down to Becks, I think it was down to poor refereeing and gamesmanship. But Dele needs to listen and be aware it can happen.”
Alli is yet to hit top form for Spurs this season and it is possible he has been distracted by the controversy surrounding him.
“I think people should give him a bit of a break,” said Anderton, speaking on behalf of Official England Team Sponsor Vauxhall.
“He’s only young. It’s ridiculous what he’s done already at his age and part of why he’s done that is because he has that bit of devilment in him.
“At some point maybe you need to curb that but my argument would be when Wayne Rooney curbed his anger and temper he probably wasn’t quite the same player.
“He just needs to channel it in the right areas and be told, ‘we can’t have you missing games and being sent off. We need you on the football pitch’.”
Alli is one of five Tottenham players in the current England squad and that number could become six in Russia if Danny Rose regains fitness.
With Kyle Walker, who left White Hart Lane to join Manchester City last summer, also a likely starter, Anderton believes Gareth Southgate should build his side around a Spurs nucleus.
“I don’t want to blow Spurs’ trumpet too much but when you look at what Spurs have, it’s pretty special,” Anderton, who spent 12 years at Tottenham, said.
“Why not try to build a team around that? I think back to when I played for England. At Euro 96, we had good players, leaders, but we also had a club mentality.
“It felt like we were playing with our mates. That’s a massive thing and if you can get it, it can only help.”