Gareth Southgate took responsibility for fielding teams that were not strong enough after the international break ended in the worst possible fashion for England, admitting the pressure has been piled on.
England were shocked by Hungary at Molineux, falling to a 4-0 defeat. Roland Sallai scored a brace before Zsolt Nagy and Daniel Gazdag added to the comprehensive scoreline. To make matters worse, John Stones got a red card after a somewhat harsh second booking.
It added insult to injury in what was England’s heaviest home defeat since 1928. They now are at genuine risk of suffering relegation from their Nations League group.
It has been a challenging couple of weeks for Gareth Southgate and his side, who won none of their four matches in the competition.
The manager has admitted his selections, while trying to balance new and old players, have not been strong enough.
Southgate said on Channel 4: “We picked a young team with energy and when the game started to go against them it started to look that way. That’s my responsibility.
“I felt at half-time we needed to go for the game. We made changes to give ourselves more attacking impetus. But that left us more open as well.
“In the end you’re pushing and you’ve got so many attacking players on that we’ve left ourselves wide open. I’ve just said to the players there, across the four matches, that’s my responsibility.
“We’ve tried to balance looking at new players and trying to rest players that we couldn’t keep flogging – our more experienced and better players.
“In the end the teams selected have not been strong enough to get the results in the two Hungary games. The other two games have been more positive than the reaction to it. But I totally understand tonight was a chastening experience.”
England were booed off the pitch at full-time, after chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ had been aimed in their direction and Southgate’s.
The 51-year-old did not find the reaction all that surprising. But he thinks togetherness will be important going forward.
He continued: “I think it shows you’ve got to be at full strength. It’s been an important experience for a lot of young players across this tranche of games. We learned a lot, particularly against Germany and Italy.
“Hungary are a good side. We knew that, and as I said I think we’ve given them too much to do in the end.
“I understand the reaction to that in the stadium. What I would say is this group of players has been unbelievable for the country. It’s important people stay with them. They’re still going to be very strong moving forward.”
Gareth Southgate addresses increasing ‘negativity and pressure’
Some questions will be asked of Southgate’s position as manager – indeed, he admitted there will be increased pressure on his shoulders now.
But he has taken full responsibility for England’s underwhelming international break.
Southgate concluded: “I’m not going to stand here and say it doesn’t hurt. But I’m very clear about what we’ve been trying to do across the four matches.
“The irony is our two Nations League campaigns have heaped negativity and pressure on us and you wouldn’t normally have that as England manager.
“I have to to go with that. It’s my job to protect the players. The results are my responsibility.”
England will be back in action after next season has got underway at club level. Their remaining Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany will take place in September, before the World Cup in November.