GARETH SOUTHGATE yesterday booted Covid rule-breakers Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood out of the England squad and branded them ‘naive’ as the manager defended himself against criticism of his leadership.
The Football Association has promised an investigation after the players invited two women back to the team hotel in Reykjavik, breaching coronavirus guidelines.
Foden — who last night apologised — and Greenwood were axed from the squad and sent home, casting a shadow over the Three Lions’ next Nations League fixture in Denmark tonight. However, Southgate insisted there was no question of the match being called off as the players had not come into contact with team-mates.
For the England boss it was the latest in a series of problems, following Harry Maguire’s court case in Greece last month, with Southgate initially selecting the defender in his squad before dropping him, while he also called up Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker after their lockdown breaches.
His management came under scrutiny yesterday but he said: ‘Whenever there have been issues, as under-21 or senior coach, we have dealt with them firmly. I like to have a good relationship with the players but the ones that have worked with me for a long time know I am not afraid to make tough calls.’
Asked whether he should draw up a code of conduct, he added: ‘I don’t think that would act as any more of a deterrent than dealing with each case on its individual merits.’ Southgate said Foden, 20, and Greenwood, 18, had been ‘naive’ and it was a ‘very serious situation’ and one both players would find ‘intense’.
‘I will be very clear with them on my feelings and how they need to respond and react, but that balance is important,’ he added.
‘Obviously they’ve been naive, we’ve dealt with it appropriately. I recognise their age but the whole world is dealing with this pandemic and there’s responsibility on every age group.’
The players were also rebuked by their clubs. ‘It is clear Phil’s actions were totally inappropriate. His behaviour not only contravenes strict guidelines but also falls well below the standard expected,’ said Manchester City.
Manchester United said of their striker: ‘We are liaising with the FA and are disappointed with the actions of Mason Greenwood.’