Gareth Southgate was grateful for the leadership shown by the England team tonight as a frank half-time discussion saved them from embarrassment against Switzerland.
England were abject in the first half at Leicester, Danny Rose described it as “embarrassing” and revealed afterwards that the players “all shouted at each other and told each other to improve” during the break.
Harry Maguire confirmed that there were “a few words spoken” during the break and that Southgate himself later had “a stern word” with the players.
When Southgate came in for his post-match press conference, he confirmed that the players had taken responsibility at the start of the half-time break and helped to inspire the improvement required to win the game 1-0.
“I wasn’t in there at that moment,” Southgate said. “We always give them the first three or four minutes to themselves, they were frustrated the first half.
We always encourage them to have a voice. It’s important they feel close enough that they can get on to each other. Then we have to make sure that doesn’t boil over. But it was quite calm by the time we got in there.”
In an England team short of experience and vocal leaders, Southgate was pleased with the reaction that he got. Especially because of the high standards that the players set for themselves.
“That’s a good sign there’s some leadership in the group,” Southgate said. “They recognise when they want to be better. Today they were harsh on themselves. To expect each other to be as sharp as they might be on their first starts is a bit unrealistic.”
While England were outplayed in the first half, Southgate said that was “quite predictable” because their players were sharper and more experienced.
“I always knew that was a risk today,” Southgate said.
“To be up against a top side at moving the ball as well as they were was one problem. We then had a tactical issue dealing with Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka going in deep, which meant even more running for lads getting their first game of the season. We gave the ball away too cheaply. But the players needed the game.“
They dug in through that period, and we were able to make some tactical changes at half-time and put some physically sharper players on. The first half was quite predictable really.”