Voices: Don’t blame Southgate – England’s dire performance at the Euros isn’t down to him

Woe de Cologne: Once again, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have played significantly below expectations (PA )
Woe de Cologne: Once again, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have played significantly below expectations (PA )

Watching Gareth Southgate dodge incoming plastic cups as he walked off the pitch last night was uncomfortable viewing. It wasn’t shocking, though. Fans have travelled by plane, train, and some even pedalled hundreds of miles, spending eye-watering amounts of hard-saved cash to buy tickets for a game that would have been more fittingly played on a Sunday League pitch.

We can hardly blame fans for booing the utterly dire 0-0 performance our national team put in against arguably one of the lower-ranked teams in the tournament.

The Three Lions once again played significantly below expectations for the third successive match in Cologne, despite somehow topping their group – a fact that can now only be viewed as a reflection of the strength of the other teams. England have thus far been – as my 12-year-old son would say – “complete dirt”.

In his post-match interview, Southgate was defiant, attempting to take the heat off his players: “I understand the narrative towards me. That’s better for the team than it being towards them,” he said. “But it’s creating an unusual environment to operate in. I’ve not seen any other team qualify and receive similar.”

There’s a very clear reason for the criticism, though – one which you won’t see a single pundit or commentator mention it, because they too are part of the problem. The thing that’s really scuppering our hopes of international football glory can be found right here at home: the Premier League.

Let me explain.

Show me another European league participating in the Euros that generates anywhere near the £9.2bn revenue that the Premier League brings in every year. None of them come close.

The 26-man England squad’s combined “resale value” is £1.2bn. That’s more than the German and Belgium squad combined.

Jude Bellingham is the highest valued player in the entire tournament, and the England team has four players worth more than £100m.

The idea that money and fame are part of the package when one becomes an elite football player is nothing new – but the scale of it is. These men receive some of the highest salaries on the planet from their respective clubs. So is it any wonder they value their status as Premier League players over and above playing for their country?

I offer you Ben White as a case in point. Some would argue White would have been an automatic selection in Southgate’s defensive line-up for the Euros. But he’s not there. Why? He turned down the opportunity, saying he did not want to be considered at this time.

Rumour has it White had issues with some of members of the England coaching staff. But I don’t buy it. Put your big boy pants on, Ben. Your country needs you.

Except he didn’t. Why? Well, I simply don’t believe he cares enough about playing for his country. He is a product of this generation of spoilt brat, overpaid Premier League players who only care about one thing: the club that has brought them fame, fortune and a lifestyle beyond most of our wildest dreams.

The problem isn’t Gareth Southgate, or his lack of managerial ideas. It’s not, as many argue, the fact he’s not putting the younger, less experienced squad members in his starting lineup. Nor is it the lack of support from England fans.

The problem is that in the Premier League, English football has created a monster which has destroyed the unwavering passion players used to have for putting on an England shirt. It’s no coincidence that the men’s team (unlike the Lionesses, who get paid a pittance by comparison) haven’t won a tournament since 1966.

And the worst thing is, we had better start getting used to this level of entitlement, laziness and failure from footballers representing our country on the world stage – because at this point, it’s going to be almost impossible to reverse.