Gareth Southgate has revealed Jack Grealish completely understood his motives for taking him off just 35 minutes after he was introduced as a substitute during England’s historic Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark.
The Aston Villa playmaker has been used sparingly over the course of the tournament, making only one start to date, and that came it what was effectively a dead rubber against Czech Republic in his side’s final group match. And with 20 minutes remaining against a battling, but clearly tiring Danish side, Grealish was introduced with the score locked at 1-1.
The 25-year-old tried to make a major impression but suffered the ignominy of being hauled off just moments after Harry Kane’s decisive goal in extra-time.
Kieran Tripper took Grealish’s place at the start of the second period of extra-time as Southgate changed the shape of the side.
Explaining the change, Southgate said of Grealish: “He’s fine – he understood, he was terrific when he came on he gave us momentum.
“But we know when they’ve gone behind in games they’ve thrown four men up front so we needed to get an extra defender on just to make sure we were more solid and I wanted to keep Raheem’s [Sterling] speed on so it meant taking one of the two boys off who had just come on.”
Southgate has often been accused of being too nice to command the respect of an England team looking to lift the Euros trophy for the first time.
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However, his former teammate Ian Wright believes the decision showed a different side to the Three Lions boss.
He said: “I feel for Jack Grealish you can see it’s a tournament that he really wants to be a part of, Every time he gets going it doesn’t quite happen for him. To be taken off like that is of course, you subbed a sub its not nice.
“But it is about the squad and being a part of it. Sunday Jack might come on and make a massive difference. He might set up the winning goal.”
Neville feels for embarrassed Grealish
Former England right-back Gary Neville, meanwhile, feels that Grealish would have been ’embarrassed’ by the decision.
Speaking to ITV Sport, as cited by Metro, he, along with Wright and fellow pundit Roy Keane, believes Southgate showed he could be ‘nasty’ if the situation demanded it.
Neville said: “There’s been moments all the way through this tournament where Gareth has been questioned and been battered if it’d gone wrong.
“He’s done things his way all the way through the tournament, there’s no ego in the dressing room. He’ll make the decisions that need to be made for the team to be successful and he puts the team first.
“Jack tonight has suffered and look it’s an embarrassing moment for him in the sense of being a subbed sub. Nobody likes it but he will recognise it was the right thing to do for the team.”
Keane added: “He [Southgate] is a nice guy but you have to be nasty to work at this level. It was no surprise when Gareth made that decision.
“Jack will have to look at the bigger picture. It’s all about the team getting to the final. There’s no doubt Gareth is nasty enough to make those decisions. We saw it tonight.”