England stars need to act like ambassadors – Southgate demands improved discipline

By Sports Desk December 07, 2020

Gareth Southgate will not set strict boundaries when it comes to team discipline but the England boss expects his players to be "reliable" and "good ambassadors".

Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood have all been involved in high-profile incidents in recent months that led to them being dropped from Three Lions duty. 

A breach of coronavirus isolation rules while in Iceland proved costly for Manchester City playmaker Foden and Manchester United forward Greenwood in September. 

The pair appeared to be shown in a Snapchat video posted by one of the women they were said to be socialising with at England's team hotel in Iceland, a meeting then forbidden under the country's strict rules in response to COVID-19.

Both were sent home and missed a subsequent game against Denmark, although Foden was recalled for England's matches against Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland last month. 

Maguire was also in the headlines for the wrong reasons in August after he was arrested while on holiday on the Greek island of Mykonos.

The 27-year-old – who was originally selected, then dropped from the October internationals – is appealing a suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery.

While Southgate is not prepared to lay down strict rules for his players, he does expect them to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. 

"I would think every club is going to want to minimise the issues," he told a media conference. 

"On a broader level, I mentioned the responsibilities of being an England player. That shows the change of landscape for any players involved with us. 

"We want the country to connect with the team, be proud of the team and that they are good ambassadors for everything we are trying to do. 

"Reliability is part of our criteria. I'm not going to say this is the line, and anyone who crosses it we don't consider, but we're always observing how professional they are and how they will be if they are away with us for 35-40 days. All of that has to come into our thinking."

Southgate was speaking after England were drawn against Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in Group I for 2022 World Cup qualifying. 

That means a meeting with Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who has started the season in scintillating form for Bayern Munich.

After 55 goals across all competitions last term for the Bundesliga and Champions League winners, Lewandowski has already plundered 15 goals this campaign. 

Southgate is an admirer of the 32-year-old and says his defenders will relish the opportunity to try and shackle one of the world's best strikers. 

"He's an incredible finisher," Southgate added. "I love the way he plays. He's got an excellent all-round game, protecting the ball, bringing others into play. All different types of finishes. 

"He's a huge talisman for Poland. It's a great challenge for our defenders to come up against centre-forwards like that.

"In the modern game, there are not so many number nines, but Lewandowski is absolutely in that mould."

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