Wayne Bridge: ‘Some England players will 100% be affected mentally by criticism’

 | Thursday 27th June 2024, 15:42pm

Thursday 27th June 2024, 15:42pm

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After England’s start to Euro 2024, the criticism facing the Three Lions’ camp has been widespread. Our Euros ambassador Wayne Bridge has told us that some of the players in the squad will “100%” be affected mentally and believes that the players facing criticism need to have an arm put around them from their fellow players and their manager Gareth Southgate to ensure that they’re ready going into the knockout stages. In our latest interview, Wayne also spoke about what England need to do to prevent an upset against Slovakia on Sunday, the influence Cole Palmer can have on the team, why Phil Foden needs to be playing in the number ten role and why he believes Ben Chilwell will be “gutted” to not be with the squad in Germany. 

Euro 2024 Betting Tips: 

  • England to win Euro 2024 @ 7/2
  • France to win Euro 2024 @ 11/2

England will face Slovakia on Sunday in their round of 16 tie. What’s your prediction for the game and what dangers do this Slovakia team pose to England? We need to remember that they beat Belgium in their opening game, so how can England prevent an upset?

“How can they prevent an upset? By playing better. You look at teams like France and they’re not at their best yet but if you look at us at the moment, we just don’t seem at it. Hopefully we can start playing some good football and the most important thing is that we’ve reached the knockout stages, but we can’t carry on playing how we’re playing and go very far in the competition. We’d be very lucky if we did. We need to concentrate on our own game more than anything and I know a lot of people have said this already, but we need to get Phil Foden in the number ten role. We’ve got the likes of Anthony Gordon, Bukayo Saka and Cole Palmer who can play on either wing and I’d stick Jude Bellingham next to Declan Rice. That would make other teams worry about us a bit more.

“When we’ve seen them in the first three games, it looks as if nobody knows what they’re supposed to be doing. I know Foden got slated in the first game but in the following two, he seems like the only one who’s passing the ball, running off it to receive it and at times he looked like the only player that was pressing. It all looked a bit static because when somebody was on the ball, there was no movement from the other players. We’ve got to worry about our own game a little bit before we worry about Slovakia. 

“Every game’s a tough game, so it’s going to be hard whoever we play.”

This current England side has come under a bit of scrutiny in the early stages of the tournament. How did the England teams you played in deal with the criticism they faced?

“Regarding this current team, I don’t think there would be arguments going on in the dressing room. There could be, you never know. More arguments happen at club level and I never saw any when I was away with the national team. 

“You know you’re going to get criticism when you’re not playing well and as a footballer, you know when you’re not playing well. No player goes out there to play badly and criticism can definitely affect players mentally. I’m not saying every one of those players has been affected mentally, but some of them would have, 100%. We’re all built differently and some players are very mentally strong and some aren’t. 

“I don’t believe the criticism helps the squad and I heard Harry Kane’s interview the other day when he claimed that it’s not helpful when ex-players are critical. I totally get that and it doesn’t help. We know what it’s like to be in their position and it comes with a lot of pressure. It all depends now on how the players can deal with the pressure. Steven Gerrard could always deal with the pressure and he wouldn’t let anything affect him. When the whistle went, I was always one of those players that wouldn’t worry about it too much. 

“I’d like to think that the players facing a bit of stick get an arm around them and everybody in the camp makes sure that they’re mentally right. I’m sure that most of those players are mentally ready for it.

“From the outside looking in, it seems as if they have to work on their tactics and most importantly, they need the players out there that are going to make something happen and for me, that’s Phil Foden in the number ten.”

Now we know the round of 16 ties in full, who do you believe are now the favourites to reach the final from both sides of the draw? 

“It’s really hard to answer. Spain and Germany have played really well, but you’ve still got the likes of France, Portugal, England, Italy and Holland, so it’s really hard. You definitely can’t rule Austria out either as a dark horse. I would have to say France to reach the final, but then you look at our side of the draw, there’s ourselves and Italy. You just can’t write any teams off and if you go off how England have played so far, you wouldn’t say that they’re going to get there but there is enough quality if Gareth Southgate decides to change the way we’re playing and the personnel. If that happens, then we have a great chance because we have a great squad.”

Do you believe starting Cole Palmer is key to England going deep into the knockout stages? 

“100%. I loved watching him for Chelsea last season and he’s one of those players that looks as if he’s playing on the park. He plays with a lot of freedom, he’s probably one of those players that’s mentally strong and he’s exciting to watch. Him and Anthony Gordon, if he gets a chance, are going to make things happen and that’s really important. He’s definitely important for England, he’s been exciting to watch for Chelsea all season and he’s been their best player. He’s going to make things happen and if other teams are looking at the teamsheet and he’s not on it, then they’re going to be buzzing and if he’s on it, then the opposition will have something to worry about.”

Do you believe Gareth Southgate has made an error by choosing Luke Shaw as the only natural left-back for England at Euro 2024? What message does this selection send to the likes of Ben Chilwell and Tyrick Mitchell?

“If I was Chilwell, I’d probably be devastated or angry. He’ll be questioning what he’s got to do to get into this squad. I don’t know if there’s an underlying issue between him and Gareth Southgate or not, but he will be gutted. If Luke’s fit for the next game and he gets through it, then we’ll be fine. With a natural left-back, it gives the team balance and with Phil Foden playing on the left-hand side, it would allow the full-back to overlap and I don’t believe Kieran Trippier’s going to do that at left-back. When you look at it like that, they should have taken another natural left-back to Germany.”

What do you think of the Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield experiment? Can you see England returning to it later in the tournament?

“I really like him as a player and I don’t mind it in principle. The only issue I have, is that it pushes Phil Foden out wide due to Jude Bellingham occupying that number ten role. I’d prefer to see Jude alongside Declan Rice as the central-midfield pairing because Phil needs to be one that’s just behind Harry Kane and I believe Jude would do brilliantly next to Declan, but he’d need to have more license than Rice to get higher up the pitch because he’s got a great engine on him. 

“Trent’s a great player and England have got so many good players. If Jude wasn’t playing, then I’d have Trent in there alongside Declan because he’s got great passing ability and vision.”

Which team has surprised you the most at Euro 2024? Are Ralf Rangnick’s Austria the genuine dark horses? 

“I think they’re everybody’s dark horse at the moment because of the way they’ve gone about things so far. We also know that Denmark can be dangerous and they had their chances against England, but Austria have done really well. It wouldn’t surprise me if they go quite far in the competition.”

And to end the interview, we want to ask you about your former club Chelsea. Newcastle United’s Alexander Isak, Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke and Lille’s Jonathan David are three strikers currently linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. If the decision was yours, realistically which forward do you believe your former club should pursue this summer? Anybody outside those three?

“I’d have to say Alexander Isak. I really like him. He’s got a lot of quality and he’s done really well for his club. There’s also Victor Osimhen at Napoli but ultimately, the recruitment side of the game is very difficult and it’s not as simple as buying a player and slotting them in. Isak’s already doing well in the Premier League, so you know that he’s well suited to the league. Sometimes if you buy a player from abroad, they don’t adjust immediately, they can take time to bed in and every so often, it doesn’t work at all. Isak would be the striker I’d like to see Chelsea sign this summer.”

Nico Williams, who’s starred for Spain at Euro 2024, is linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. He has a £46.5 million release clause reportedly in his contract and from what you’ve seen of him at the tournament, what do you believe he could bring to this Chelsea team and would you be excited to see this transfer happen?

“He’s just exciting to watch. He’s similar to Cole Palmer in a sense because whenever he’s on the pitch, you think something’s going to happen. He’s an exciting player and he’s a proper winger because he’s quick and direct. I’d love to see him at Stamford Bridge and he’d be a joy to watch in my opinion.”

 

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