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John Barnes: Why I don’t believe that England will sack Gareth Southgate if they underachieve at Euro 2021

John Barnes believes Southgate won't get sacked if early Euros exit.
John Barnes believes Southgate won't get sacked if early Euros exit.

BettingOdds.com has teamed up with former England, Liverpool and Newcastle player John Barnes to give us his insight in the lead up to this summer's Euro 2021 Championships…

The job of England manager comes with much scrutiny and with the expectations of an entire nation on the shoulders of Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020 this summer, achievement is a must in the eyes of many England supporters.

However, ex-England international John Barnes doesn’t believe that the national team will part ways with Gareth Southgate after the tournament if the side was to underachieve at the Euros this summer.

Continuing our new series of interviews with the former England winger, John tells BettingOdds.com why he doesn’t think Jack Grealish should start for the national team, where Mohamed Salah ranks amongst Liverpool’s greatest ever players and how he always knew that Eden Hazard’s Real Madrid move wouldn’t work out.

Starting with England, if the national team are unable to impress in the latter stages of Euro 2020, or potentially exit in the group stages, can you envision Gareth Southgate remaining England manager going into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

“How can we say that if we don’t know who we’re going to play? If we get Belgium in the quarter-finals and they beat us, well Belgium are better than us, they’re harder than us and they should beat us. Should we get rid of Gareth Southgate because he didn’t beat Belgium? Who would have beat Belgium? The whole idea of if we don’t get here then we should sack the manager is crazy.

“However if we lose all three of our group games against lesser teams then maybe we can look at that situation. I don’t think any other manager can make us win the Euros with that current team, so it’s a question of being realistic with our expectations.”

After going a considerably long time without an England call-up, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has been included in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for Euro 2020. If the decision was up to you, would Grealish be in your England XI?

“First of all he’s been injured and he hasn’t played much football over the last few months. Secondly, if Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are the two players that start then they’re going to remain wide and not just go searching for the ball all the time like Jack Grealish does.

“Jack Grealish at Aston Villa can do whatever he wants, but is there a defined role in England’s system that’s going to allow him to do that? I don’t think England can afford to do that with any player.

“The problem for England is that they have so many number tens and they have a multitude of options from an attacking perspective. It’s a shame that we have so many creative players in that midfield but you can only play one.”

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Staying on the subject of Jack Grealish, last week it was speculated that he wants to move to Manchester City this summer. Do you believe that Aston Villa will struggle to keep hold of him if one of the top sides comes in for him?

“I don’t think Aston Villa will struggle to keep him as I believe he should stay at Villa Park. He’s such an individual type of player, so for him to go to one of the bigger clubs where there’s more of a structure and there are superstar players around him, then Jack can’t just go and demand the ball off these great players.

“Say for example at Manchester United, Jack can’t go and demand the ball of Paul Pogba or Bruno Fernandes as if he’s the main player. He would have to play a more disciplined role. Would that be the right thing for him?

“Unless you’re a Lionel Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo, then you’re not going to take over from the superstar players at these big clubs. 

“If he was to leave Villa then Jack could earn more money, more prestige and a few trophies but I don’t think it would do his playing career a lot of good if he was to go to a huge club.”

Mohamed Salah last week was voted Liverpool’s player of the season for the second time. Where does he rank amongst the club's greatest ever players?

“Well of course he would be up there, but if he leaves Liverpool after being there for four years then he probably wouldn’t be up there. You would of course have said that Luis Suarez would have been up there too, but he left after three years.

“You have to look at the end of each player’s career and then you rate where they rank, however if Mohamed Salah was to leave now then he probably would still rank amongst Liverpool’s greatest players, but he wouldn’t have scored as many as some of the other players who remained at Anfield for longer. 

“Fernando Torres is another player who would have been up there if he had stayed a bit longer too.”

A name that continues to be linked with Liverpool is that of PSG forward Kylian Mbappe. Do you believe the signing of the World Cup winner is realistic and if not, where do you believe he will end up?

“I don’t think it will happen. We know the salary that he would want and he would command a large transfer fee and things like that, so I can’t see a move to Liverpool happening.

“I think he will either go to Real Madrid or stay at PSG. In the current climate, PSG are possibly the only club that can offer him what he wants. Even Real Madrid would be struggling along those sides and would have to burst the bank.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed at PSG for another year.”

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Rumours are suggesting that Eden Hazard’s time at Real Madrid is coming to an end as he’s reportedly been placed on the transfer list. Do you believe that a return to the Premier League is on the cards?

“A football player has to find the right club that suits them. Chelsea suited Eden Hazard perfectly. He could dribble when he wanted and lose the ball when he wanted and the fans wouldn’t boo him. At Real Madrid that doesn’t happen because you’ve got all the superstars there.

“I didn’t think that he would be a success there. I can’t see him going to another giant club now at this stage of his career, because look what’s happened to him at Real Madrid and he has had injury problems too. 

“However the good thing about football is that there’s always going to be a good club that will take you. He couldn’t go any bigger than Real Madrid, but going back to Chelsea could be interesting, however they now have players such as Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount who could become hindered if Eden Hazard was to return so I don’t think that would be the right move for Chelsea going forward. It will be interesting to see where he goes.”

Frank Lampard, who was sacked as Chelsea manager in January, is currently linked with the vacant manager’s roles at Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and West Brom. Which club do you believe would present the best opportunity for Frank?

“Frank did a good job with Chelsea. Of course in the second year, what happened, happened. They weren’t in a disastrous position I didn’t think. I didn’t think Frank did a bad job, I think he could have been given time.

“Crystal Palace would be a good job for him. It’s a Premier League club, good owners, good chairman, supportive, good players with what he has, expectations won’t grow to be ‘top four’ but if Palace get mid-table for him to rehabilitate his career, a top six club isn’t going to come for him now, so I think it’ll be a good move for him. 

“They have the type of football he wants to play, so I think it’ll be a good move, definitely.”

Do you support players such as Wilfried Zaha who’re refusing to take the knee?

“I didn’t necessarily support Wilfred Zaha not taking a knee. I support those taking the knee, and those who aren’t taking the knee. But what is being done? It is just a token gesture to raise or highlight the issue, but doing nothing to get rid of it. 

“We used to pass the ‘Show racism the red card’ card along the line for the Champions League for twenty-five years. All you do is that you pass it along. Nothing else is done and it’s the same thing that we’re doing now. 

“We’re discussing whether it’s right to take the knee or wrong to take the knee, not the issues behind why you’re taking the knee and what is being done about it. The tangible difference that can be made is the real issue, not whether you should be taking the knee or not. 

“So as I said, I don’t care whether you’re taking the knee, I don’t care whether you don’t take the knee. I’ll support you either way, but what else are you doing?”

 

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Ashley Young is rumoured to be closing in on a return to your former club Watford. Do you think he would be a good signing for the Hornets?

“Similar to Troy Deeney in terms of galvanising the squad and the club and the fans to get a local hero back. Maybe not even to play every week. I do think that you need an identity and I think that if you look at most clubs they’re looking to have an identity from the relationship between the fans and the players. I think that Ashley will bring that back, so I think that it’d be a good signing for them.”

Steven Gerrard is a shock name being touted as a potential replacement for Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Can you see Steven managing another Premier League side that isn’t Liverpool?

“I can yes because we all know that the Premier League is the place to manage. Steven is ambitious and he may be able to win the league or finish second in Scotland every year, but to test yourself you have to come back down south. That’s obvious. 

“Regarding which Premier League side he could manage, that all depends when an opportunity presents itself and how well he’s doing at that point in time, but of course if he wanted to come to the Premier League right now then his stock is very high.

“If he waits another year and Rangers finish second in the league and they’re 20 points behind Celtic then maybe his stock won’t be so high. So it’s difficult to say whether I can see Stevie managing Liverpool or any other Premier League club, but the time for it to happen would be now.

“Rangers were of course unbeaten, they won the SPL and they did really well. Timing is really important when it comes to management, so it may be the best time for Steven to come to the Premier League, but is there a club available for him now? There probably isn’t.”

 

Keep tuned for more John Barnes content for BettingOdds.com as we lead up to Euro 2021 beginning on June 11th

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