Glen Johnson: Liverpool should consider Gareth Southgate if he’s available this summer

 | March 26 | 

15 mins read

glen johnson footy

Last week, Gareth Southgate stated that it was “completely disrespectful” for him to be linked with the Manchester United job whilst Erik ten Hag is still manager of the club. Southgate remains the bookies’ favourite to be in the hotseat at Old Trafford when the new season starts in August, but ex-Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson believes that his former club should also consider a move for the England manager if he’s available in the summer. In an exclusive interview with Betfred, Johnson also speaks about his preferred starting eleven for England at Euro 2024, whether he believes Jordan Henderson should still be selected by Gareth Southgate and the future of Mauricio Pochettino as Chelsea manager.

Do you believe Harry Maguire’s chances of starting for England at Euro 2024 could be affected by his performance against Brazil on Saturday?

“To be honest, I didn’t think that Harry had much of a chance of starting for England at Euro 2024 before the Brazil game, so I don’t think his performance in that game would have significantly improved his chances anyway.

“In international friendlies, you need your experienced players to be the backbone of the team, regardless of whether they’re in form or not because it would allow the youngsters to make mistakes, learn their trade and feel reassured. If they’ve got rocky, experienced players around them, then it’s only going to rock the boat for the youngsters coming in and it’s not going to be as settled as they’d want it to be.

“I don’t believe Harry’s chances of starting for England at Euro 2024 have changed because of the Brazil game. Some players did themselves a favour and some of them didn’t, but I believe Gareth was just giving a lot of those players the experience of playing for England rather than using it as a chance to analyse who should be starting at the Euros and who shouldn’t.”

What do you believe England’s starting XI should be for their first game of Euro 2024 against Serbia on June 16th?

“I’d go with Aaron Ramsdale in goal. I’d have Joe Gomez and John Stones at centre-back and I’d have Reece James and Ben Chilwell at right-back and left-back respectively. You could have Lewis Dunk in there ahead of Joe Gomez, but I’ll stick with Gomez for now. 

“In midfield, I’ll go with Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and have Phil Foden in there too. I’d then have a front three of Cole Palmer, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka. It’s pretty attacking, but you’ve got to score to win tournaments.”

Do you believe that your former teammate Jordan Henderson should still be in the England squad? Do you believe his experience could be invaluable for his country at Euro 2024?

“Yes, definitely. Jordan comes in for a lot of criticism, but people don’t realise what he does for the squad. England’s squad is very young and you need experienced heads in there to help out. Hendo probably won’t start or play much at Euro 2024, but for the purpose of reassuring and encouraging the youngsters, he should definitely be on the plane.”

Do you believe Kobbie Mainoo deserves his place in the England squad and do you believe he’s got a chance of starting for his country at Euro 2024?

“I think it all depends on how much gametime he gets for Manchester United between now and the end of the season. There’s no doubt about his ability and you’d never be able to guess his age when you see the way he plays.

“I know he only played for a short period against Brazil, but you don’t see many midfielders with the brain and footwork that he’s got. I think he looks world-class and you’d expect him to go on and have a massive career but for him to start for England at the Euros, he will need a lot more gametime for Manchester United.”

Do you believe there would be a good balance in England’s midfield if it consisted of Declan Rice, Kobbie Mainoo and Jude Bellingham?

“There would certainly be three bloody good players in that midfield. If it was to be that midfield three for England at the Euros, then I believe Declan Rice would have to sacrifice his own game and play in the anchor role as you can’t have three of them running all over the place. 

“If Declan can play in that disciplined role and stay in the middle of the park and not move, then that midfield three would have a decent shape and a rock solid core of the team. Declan has the legs to run all over the place, but all three of them can’t be doing that at once. As long as one of them can play in that anchor role in a disciplined fashion, then I can't see why that midfield three wouldn’t work.”

Who do you believe should be Harry Kane’s deputy at Euro 2024, Ollie Watkins or Ivan Toney?

“I would say that Ivan Toney is the best deputy for Harry Kane out of the two of them. Harry Kane is world-class and he’s the only world-class striker we’ve got. The top teams at big international tournaments tend to have a striker that can make opposition defenders fearful and Harry Kane does that, but I’m not so sure that Watkins and Toney have the same fear factor. For that reason, we need to make sure that Kane’s fit, but I’d still say that Ivan Toney should be his deputy rather than Ollie Watkins.”

The speculation claiming that Gareth Southgate could be the next Manchester United manager continues to intensify. Do you believe Gareth could be a success at Old Trafford and do you believe he should be wary of that move?

“It’s an awkward one to talk about because you don’t want to go into a major tournament speculating about whether England’s manager is going elsewhere and you also don’t want to make assumptions over Erik ten Hag’s future too because he’s still the manager of Manchester United, but unfortunately that’s what happens, so we’re going to do it.

“There have been a number of good, successful managers that have gone into the job at Manchester United and have struggled, so it wouldn’t be guaranteed success for Gareth if he was to take the job. 

“Manchester United are a huge club, with great support and on paper, they have a very good squad too. A top manager like Gareth could come in, get rid of a lot of the deadwood, provide that team with a good backbone and make Manchester United successful again, however, there’s been a lot of good managers that have taken that job in recent years and have failed.”

Considering the harmony in England’s dressing room under Gareth, do you believe he could replicate the same environment if he moved to Manchester United?

“I’m not sure because despite being a top bloke and great manager, I believe Gareth gets more respect from the players in the England squad because he’s English. Foreign players in Manchester United’s squad are initially not going to have that same level of respect for Gareth as the English players do. It would take a bit of time for him to win them over and if he can, then he’s more than capable of being successful.”

Do you believe Mauricio Pochettino has to realistically win the FA Cup this season to save his job at Chelsea?

“I don’t believe he has to win the FA Cup to keep his job, but I do believe that he needs to win it to keep the fans off his back. I still believe that the owners have a long-term plan, but they need to see better results soon and evidence of progression. I believe Pochettino has to win the FA Cup to buy himself time with the fans and other people around the club.”

José Mourinho is one of the favourites to be the next manager of Chelsea if Mauricio Pochettino leaves the club at the end of the season. Do you believe your former manager could be a success once again for the Stamford Bridge outfit if he returns to Chelsea?

“He’s still a top manager and he would walk into the changing room, command respect from the players and probably get an instant reaction, but José has done his best work when he’s walked into a world-class team, blown everything up and leaves after two or three years of winning trophies. That’s not going to happen with this current crop of Chelsea players because they’re not a world-class team and Mourinho doesn’t usually have the time to build one from scratch. Building a team takes time and José wouldn’t have the players there that will allow him to have an instant impact and be dominant for two years. 

“Just because Mourinho’s been successful at the club before doesn’t mean he will be again if he returns as this current side isn’t a world-class team.”

What did you make of Chelsea fan’s treatment of Raheem Sterling during their FA Cup quarter-final win against Leicester?

“I didn’t like it. He’s still a Chelsea player and I understand the fans’ frustration, but the boy is trying. You can see that Raheem has no confidence whatsoever at the moment and all the booing isn’t going to help him. 

“There’s been a couple of times where he’s got into fantastic positions and then he’s really, really messed it up. You can see how low he is at the moment and hopefully the fans can get behind him.

“With the free-kick against Leicester City, you can appreciate the instant frustration from the fans because it was in a promising position, but booing him doesn’t help anyone. Hopefully the fans can support Raheem and then they’ll have a good player on their hands. When Raz is low on confidence, then he’s a completely different person.”

As it stands, do you believe Raheem has any chance of going to Euro 2024 with England?

“I wouldn’t say that he has no chance but as it stands, his chances of going are slim when you consider just how low on confidence he is at the moment, his recent performances and the fact that other players in his position are playing better than he is currently. 

“Raheem needs to hit some form soon if he’s to increase his chances of going because England are rich with players in his position at this moment in time.”

Where for you does the Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp rivalry rank amongst the greatest ever in the Premier League?

“It’s got to be up there. Remember back in the day when everybody was buzzing to watch Manchester United versus Arsenal? That was because of the rivalry between the two managers. I’d say this rivalry between Pep and Jürgen is probably second to Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, but it’s still been a brilliant one. I’m sure Pep and Jürgen get on better than Wenger and Ferguson did, but they’ve both built brilliant teams and they’ve been two giants going toe-to-toe. These are the clashes that everybody wants to see.”

Do you want Xabi Alonso to be the next manager of Liverpool?

“I don’t know. I’d like to see him as the manager of Liverpool one day, but timing in football is everything and for whoever comes in next, they’re going to be massively under the spotlight. Xabi would be a great manager for the club, but I believe somebody needs to come in after Jürgen Klopp and take the bullet first. I know that sounds horrible and brutal to say, but there’s no chance of whoever comes in next being better than Jürgen and that’s a testament to the team he’s built at Liverpool. The best they can do is match him and that’s a hard place to start.

“I think an older manager needs to go in there with that mindset and know that they’re only going to be there for a couple of years. Once there’s a dip, then you can give a younger manager a chance. Taking over after Jürgen would be such huge shoes to fill for somebody in the early stage of their managerial career.”

Roberto De Zerbi is said to be amongst the favourites for the Liverpool job, but do you believe that prospect is becoming less likely considering Brighton’s recent form?

“You don’t become a bad manager overnight, so the characteristics that prospective suitors admire will still be there. Brighton have dipped in form but with better players and the methods he has, then there’s no reason why he couldn’t be a success at Liverpool, but the fans may be a bit less excited about the prospect of him coming to Anfield considering Brighton’s form in recent times.”

Would you be wary of Liverpool appointing Sporting Lisbon’s Rúben Amorim as their next manager considering that he doesn’t have any Premier League experience?

“Yes, you would be a bit wary because the Premier League and the Primeira Liga are very different. Organising a team and getting the players to play is the simple bit, but understanding the demands of the Premier League and the speed of the league is something that he would have to get used to. 

“Signing players from a different league is risky and the same goes for managers.”

Do you believe Gareth Southgate should be considered by Liverpool if he decides to leave England after Euro 2024?

“If he’s available in the summer, then you’ve got to look at all the options. He’s done a brilliant job with England, so there’s no reason why he can’t be successful with a club like Liverpool as he’d be dealing with a similar standard of players. You’d need to have the chat because you can’t just dismiss him if he’s available.”

Liverpool, along with Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester are believed to be interested in Real Madrid’s £85 million rated Rodrygo, who could leave the Santiago Bernabéu this summer after the expected arrival of Kylian Mbappé in the Spanish capital. Would you love to see Rodrygo turn up at Anfield if he decides to leave Real Madrid?

“I would, yes. He looked decent against England on Saturday and you don’t play for Brazil if you’re average. Sometimes you’d question why Real Madrid would be prepared to let a player go, but that’s not the case in this potential situation because Mbappé looks like he’s heading there, so Real will want to ease their financial situation.

“He certainly looks like a player that would handle the Premier League, excite the fans and with Darwin Núñez and Luis Díaz at Liverpool already, you can see him settling quite comfortably.”

West Ham United could come back with another offer for Manchester United’s Harry Maguire this summer, if speculation is to be believed. Do you believe Harry’s recent form for Manchester United could mean that he’d possibly opt against a move to the London Stadium?

“I think Harry would be a solid player for West Ham, but he’d still have a lot to prove because it’s a lot easier to play at centre-half for Manchester United than it is for West Ham because he plays for a team that’s expected to keep more possession. 

“If West Ham can do the deal at a sensible price, then I believe it’s one that they should do. Harry’s performances for Manchester United have admittedly improved in recent times, but they’ve not been overall convincing.”

Rumours last week suggested that Manchester City could be open to selling Jack Grealish this summer. Do you believe either of your former clubs, Chelsea or Liverpool, should make a move for Jack if he becomes available?

“Jack’s a very good player, but he’s had a few injuries recently and if you’re not fit and playing well at Manchester City, then there’s always going to be somebody waiting in the wings to take your spot.

“It’s a shame that he’s not had as much gametime recently because he’s a bloody good player and all the top teams will be interested in him if he becomes available and the money is right. 

“Which club would suit him best? Chelsea would need him more because unless Cole Palmer has the ball, they don’t look like they’re going to score. Liverpool already have a number of players that can contribute with both assists and goals and can play in Jack’s position, so I’d say that Chelsea need Jack more but he’d obviously rather join Liverpool if he has the chance.”

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