Jack Grealish believes criticism of Gareth Southgate over the summer was “very harsh” given the success he’s had as England manager during that time.
While the nation has still been searching for a first senior trophy since 1966, the Three Lions have never been closer to matching Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes than the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England to a surprising and unforgettable run to the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago, before the country went into a penalty shoot-out for Euro 2020 glory last summer.
But the former defender has never strayed far from criticism and came under fire after a challenging four-game slog in the Nations League ended in a 4-0 Molineux mole against the unpopular Hungary in June.
“I think it was tough,” said fan favorite Grealish of the Southgate reaction.
“We reached the final last year and then the Hungary game (we lost 1-0) at the start of the last camp. I think before that was the last time we lost a game over 90 minutes maybe Belgium in November 2020 or something.
“So, I think it’s very tough, especially (as you’ve seen) the World Cup and the Euros, how well the team and the manager himself have done.
“I obviously found it hard, but sometimes it happens when you’re English. I’ve certainly had my fair share!’
Grealish, the £100m man, knows a thing or two about control.
The 27-year-old was already in the spotlight before Aston Villa’s move to Manchester City last summer but that only made things worse for the attacking midfielder.
Grealish scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wolves, prompting Kevin De Bruyne to hint that English players like himself were being unfairly targeted because the nation was criticizing itself.
The Belgium international’s point of view was directed at Grealish, who smiled and said to the journalist: “I’ll ask you, right?”
When the reporter said he agreed, the England international said with a laugh: “I don’t know – I want to be friends with you all!
“I can obviously see a bit where he’s coming from.
“But I think that’s how it is in this country, especially when you yourself play for one of the biggest clubs in the world that wins trophies every year.
“And when I have the price tag on my head, of course people are going to want to talk. It’s just something I need to get on with.
“I keep coming back to it and saying, take it and it’s really just a part and a package. But yeah, I see a bit where he’s coming from.
Grealish seems to take it all – both good and bad – as he will in England’s crunch Nations League double-header.
The Three Lions will be relegated when they lose to Italy at the San Siro on Friday before taking on old opponents Germany on Monday – the last game of their last camp before the start of the World Cup in November.
“I think for us it’s something that we’re obviously aware of, but something that we’re all embracing,” Grealish said.
“First of all, I won’t speak for the manager, but I’m sure he has certain players who will be 100 per cent going to the World Cup and then of course there are certain places and numbers that are still up for grabs. We all train normally.
“We have two games now that are going to be very tough and that’s really like your camp before the World Cup.
“We said before Euro that we had a good couple of weeks with training sessions and good friendlies and we won’t achieve that this time.
“But everyone is in the same boat so we have to look forward to it and look forward to it.”