Gareth Southgate wants England to retain winning mentality on road to Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate wants England to retain winning mentality on road to Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate wants England to retain a relentless winning mentality akin to treble winners Manchester City as the road to Euro 2024 continues.

Monday’s Group C encounter against North Macedonia marks the halfway point of qualification for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

England already look all but assured of reaching the Euros having won at reigning champions Italy and beaten Ukraine in March before swatting aside Malta 4-0 on Friday night.

Southgate’s opposite number Michele Marcolini said the minnows, ranked 172nd in the world, could not get anywhere near the visitors as they had an “amazing attitude on the pitch from the first minute”.

That is the product of the impressive mindset cultivated by England, who are also expected to beat 65th-placed North Macedonia as this mammoth season finally comes to a close on Monday.

Put to Southgate that progress to date will count for nothing if complacency seeps in at Old Trafford, the England boss said: “Correct, yeah. That’s what we have to be.

“We’ve just watched the team win three trophies. Why? Because pretty much every game I saw them play the mentality was spot on.

“That helps when you’ve got competition for places like we have because also you know that you can’t afford a dip. You’ve got to produce.

“So sometimes you can say things as a coach but the fact that there’s somebody sitting ready to take your place that’s a good player also has an impact.

“But we have good professionals. Everybody, of course, is excited by our younger players, but our senior players have a big impact on the way they train.

“The way they embrace the younger ones coming in and the way they demand in the dressing room, the mentality that they start to set, so it all plays a part.”

Malta v England – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group C – National Stadium Ta’Qali
Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) played in midfield against Malta and put in a man-of-the-match display (Nick Potts/PA)

Southgate utilised an experienced core in Malta, while giving Marc Guehi and James Maddison starts on a night when Trent Alexander-Arnold played in midfield.

That experiment worked brilliantly as the Liverpool right-back put in a man-of-the-match display, scoring a fine effort and playing a part in England’s two other first-half goals.

Southgate admits England’s performance in Malta has slightly altered his thinking ahead of facing North Macedonia, but suggested it was down to other aspects than Alexander Arnold’s display.

“Yep (the performance made me think differently) but not the obvious that you might think!” he said with a smile.

“We always have in mind what happens (next). Of course, there’s still training over the next couple of days also to take into account.

Malta v England – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group C – National Stadium Ta’Qali
Bukayo Saka (right) was taken off as a precaution in England’s win over Malta (Nick Potts/PA)

“But what we saw tonight probably confirmed a couple of things, but also, you know, left one or two things open.

“You’ve always got a plan but normally we’re on plan E, F or G by the time we get to matchday because of the players we’ve lost or things that have happened.

“So, you always have to be flexible but pleased to get the players off that we got off and nice to give some minutes to some others as well.”

Harry Kane – who scored England’s third – Luke Shaw, Jordan Henderson and Maddison were withdrawn in the second half after Bukayo Saka was taken off at the break.

The 21-year-old forward had looked in discomfort after a tackle just before half-time, but Southgate moved to allay any injury concerns.

Malta v England – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group C – National Stadium Ta’Qali
Eberechi Eze made his England debut in the win over Malta (Nick Potts/PA)

“He is good,” the England boss said. “We just thought there’s no point in taking any chances with the scoreline as it was.”

In truth, Friday’s straightforward match in Malta will not live long in the memory but it will be forever etched in Eberechi Eze’s memory.

Denied a place in England’s provisional Euro 2020 squad by a cruelly timed Achilles injury, the Crystal Palace midfielder finally made his debut as a 70th-minute substitute at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium.

“For Eze, nice to dip his toes,” Southgate said. “He’s only had a few days training with us so he’s still getting used to everything.

“It’s, of course, a big step coming into a senior camp for the first time, even though he’s been with the Under-21s.

“He’s, I think, had his eyes opened to the level, the quality of the players, the intensity every day so a brilliant experience for him.

“He’s fabulous boy, I have to say. He really gives a lot of energy every day, which is brilliant.”