Chis Waddle Exclusive - Euro 2024

Former England international Chris Waddle talks exclusively to Genting Casino

- Southgate selections not up to scratch

- Foden club form at international level unrealistic

- Archie Gray a really versatile player


On England At Euro 2024

Chris Waddle on England’s opening matches at EURO 2024

Navigating the group stage is always a tricky process. You don't want to lose games and that can lead to negative, conservative football. When England get to the knockout stage, I expect them to take the breaks off and play with more freedom and urgency because at that stage it’s do or die.

When you know that you’re going to be going home if you lose, it creates a sense of clarity and that will hopefully liberate this group because it’s been a tough watch at times.

I've watched most of the games, and you always get the odd team that comes out and hits the ground running, but a lot of teams have stuttered so far.

Spain looked good. France, obviously, people say it should have been a goal, but I don’t agree with that. I think if you look at the overall performance against Holland, France had more than enough chances to win that game. The French aren’t purring yet. We know they’re a dangerous team that will improve as the tournament progresses.

Portugal, who I fancied from the beginning, they'll have a massive say in it.

Southgate selections not up to scratch, explains who he should pick in his midfield

I don’t think the problem is with Gareth Southgate’s substitutions, it’s with the starting line-up. This starting eleven is not doing it for me. Individually, most of the performances have been below average, the players need to look at themselves and their individual performances.

I wouldn’t have picked several of these players to begin with. I would like to see England be more positive, taking the game to the opposition. There are too many disjointed parts to the team at the moment.

We’ve seen Gareth be bold with the squad that he took – it was brave to leave the likes of Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford behind, so be bold with the players your picking.

Instead of playing with all these ball players in the team, we need someone that is a bit different.

I think it’s time to play Bellingham alongside Declan Rice. It’s something a lot of people have been calling for pre-tournament, me included. He’s got everything that you would look for in a midfielder – he can play box-to-box – so put him there.

After, what I’ve seen so far, we’re crying out for some pace on the left wing and the best option to provide that is Anthony Gordon. He’s so direct and he’ll look to beat his fullback.

Then you have to decide whether or not to play Foden at ten or play Cole Palmer. I think he’ll stick with Foden for now, but with the caveat that is he’s not performing, he’ll be coming off. I think it’s incredible that both Palmer and Gordon haven’t seen any game time at the tournament and I really hope that changes against Slovenia.

Waddle demands variety in England’s play

We’re not stretching teams. Everything is easy for the opposition to deal with because nobody is willing to run off the ball. All the players want the ball to their feet.

In these first two games, we’ve played in front of teams. We need to start asking them questions. It’s good to have some variety in your play, everything currently is so one dimensional. It’s slow. It's very safe. There's no risk involved. You can't win football matches without risk.

Gareth needs to tell these guys to express themselves. Take risks with the ball. Be brave. He needs to give these players the freedom to misplace a pass. If it’s in the right area of the park, it’s not a problem if you lose it and have an effective press that can win it back.

We need to be more adventurous. We need players who are willing to run in behind them.

Declan Rice said that the England players have put “too much pressure on themselves”, and Gareth Southgate said that the players “care too much” – what do you think about those comments?

I think that all the players are playing within themselves. It's safety first. These players take more risks playing for their clubs than they do in an England shirt, so maybe that’s what Declan Rice meant when he said that the players put too much pressure on themselves.

I don’t think that Gareth Southgate should be talking about pressure and caring too much, the message to these players must be go and enjoy it. Believe in your ability.

Gareth Southgate must be positive. He needs to be positive tactically and he needs to be positive with the messages that he gives to the players off the pitch and with the media.

We need to start asking questions of teams by being positive. We want teams to fear facing us and the players we’ve got, and that starts before a ball is kicked. A bit of positivity will do this group wonders. It’s all a bit flat, off the pitch and on it, and the two things are connected. 

I know from my own experiences what the pressure is like (to play for England). People can turn on your very quickly. I was involved at three tournaments – the aftermath can be brutal for the players and the manager. It’s never going to be an easy ride, but people will always forgive a team that is positive. It’s time to let these boys off the leash – that is the best way to turn the negativity into positivity.

On Palmer’s continued absence

Gareth obviously thinks that Jude Bellingham is the best option to play in that number ten, and the idea would have been for Foden and Bellingham to swap positions at times, which hasn’t happened effectively enough.

By accommodating both Bellingham and Foden, we’re creating more problems than solutions at the moment. It’s a shame, but it feels like they’ve been shoehorned in and it’s not working as effectively as it could.

Palmer is a flair player. England have always struggled to build around flair players – we like hard-working, functional players. People like me and John Barnes, when we played for England, we were told to keep things simple, run up and down the wing, help your full back by coming back. that wasn’t what either of did for our clubs.

Getting the best out of magicians has been a major problem for England for as long as I can remember. We assign flair players roles and instructions that go against their natural instincts, and we’re seeing that with Phil Foden at this tournament.

At Chelsea, Palmer played with a free role. He had a spectacular season in terms of his goals and assist – his numbers were the best in Europe for a midfielder – and he hasn’t seen a minute of action.

When you consider his numbers, I can’t help but feel that England are still reluctant to trust a player with the artistry of Palmer. I would love to see that change because England could give Palmer an opportunity to shine like he does for his club in that free role – we have more than enough quality behind him to offset what he doesn’t do from a defensive point of view.

What he offers you going forward more than makes up for what he doesn’t defensively. He has superb vision; he can obviously finish brilliantly. His ability frightens teams and creates spaces for others to exploit. If Palmer was eligible for any of the other top nations, he’d be starting for them.

On Trent Alexander-Arnold And Phil Foden

Unrealistic to think Foden can replicate club form for his country

Everybody wants Phil Foden to play because of what he does at Man City. Everyone expects Phil to replicate what he does at club level, but that was always going to be unrealistic.

Phil plays with some unbelievable players at Manchester City. Their movement and chemistry has been honed for years – the understanding that he has with players like Rodri, De Bruyne, Haaland, Bernardo is telepathic. It’s never going to be like that playing for England because chemistry can’t be forged in a matter of weeks. 

Waddle highlights difference between Liverpool and England Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold is playing as part of a midfield two, and I don’t understand why Gareth Southgate has made that decision.

Trent has tremendous passing range, and playing for Liverpool, we’ve seen him hit those lovely balls from right back or when he’s stepped into the midfield. The difference is he has willing runners that stretch the play. Mo Salah, Darwin, Diaz, they will run all day for him. At England, there are no runners, so his greatest strength – his passing range – in that midfield role is completely wasted. He’s playing it simple because he has too – all these England players in front of him, except for Saka sometimes, want the ball to feet.

Harry Kane is never going to run in behind. Trent’s a wonderful player, but his best attribute is being wasted in this midfield role for England. If we’re going to play Trent in midfield, than Southgate needs to get more runners into his team. We need a player with the mindset to think ‘when Trent’s on the ball, I'm going to run behind my full back because he’ll find me’.

Did Southgate throw Trent Alexander-Arnold under the bus with his comments about Kalvin Philips?

I thought his comments about Kalvin Phillips were a bit odd. Gareth will probably regret those because managers normally protect players, and the comments inferred that Trent isn’t as useful as Kalvin Phillips in central midfield.

It’s an odd comment because they are two totally different players. Trent is not being picked to replicate what Phillips did, he must be getting picked for his ability on the ball, but to get the best out of him, he needs options.

Trent’s not being used in the right way. It’s not fair for Trent to be made into a scapegoat – the overall team performance wasn’t good enough. If you’re looking at individuals, there were several players that were worse than Trent Alexander-Arnold in both of England’s games so far and he’s been the guy that’s been hooked first.

Except for Marc Guehi, who is doing well considering his lack of experience, everyone has been below average. All our players are playing below par, so Southgate should have criticised the group, not an individual.

On England vs Slovenia

What are the changes you'd like to see from England for this game in terms of that personnel?

We’ve discussed how several of our players haven’t been at their best, including Harry Kane, but I don’t think he’s going to get dropped. I think he will definitely start and hopefully he can start rediscovering his form. Kane stays at the top of the pitch.

Behind Kane, it’s time for Palmer to play. We all know what he can offer in that number ten position, and I would like to think that he will be given an opportunity to show what he can do. That would mean playing Bellingham alongside Rice, but he has the ability and the physical attributes to play in a box-to-box role. With the players that we have in this squad, Bellingham would be better suited to a deeper role.

I think Gordon should come in on the left. He’s been absolutely brilliant for Newcastle United this season and he gives England the opportunity to press aggressively and go in behind teams. He stretches play, which pushes the opponent back.

Then it’s a toss-up between Foden and Saka on the right. Neither player has done enough to demand a spot in the team, but I think Saka probably edges it.

Southgate made bold calls with his squad – a lot of people missed out, and you must praise him for his decisiveness. He needs to show that decisiveness now with his team selection, and if that means upsetting a player, then so be it. Foden would be a great option to have off the bench if he’s needed too.

From a positivity point of view, both for the fans and the players, do you think making changes would increase the positive vibes around the team? I think it would. It brings a freshness. It brings enthusiasm.

If Gareth Southgate made two or three changes, I think it would go down well with everyone connected to the team – the players and the fans.

After two tepid performances, there isn’t a player in that team that should be completely assured of his place. Change can breathe new life into the players because it keeps people on their toes and also keeps your standards high. A manager should never be afraid to make changes. There’s a phycological impact that comes from ringing the changes in terms of players putting in a little bit more in training.

From the point of view of the fans and the media, it would give everyone more positivity because we’ve been sleepwalking so far. Everyone has been calling out for England’s performances to be more positive, brave. Changes would help and I think they’re needed.

On Newcastle United

I read some more comments from Jim Ratcliffe moaning about Dan Ashworth’s gardening leave preventing him getting to work at Manchester United immediately. Should Ratcliffe stop complaining and give Newcastle the compensation that they want if he wants him so badly?

I think it’s amazing that we’re getting stories about technical staff these days. It just goes to show the interest in the game that there can be several stories about the future of people at club’s that don’t grace the pitch.

No disrespect to Dan Ashworth, because he’s respected in the role that he does, and I’m sure he’s made a few great deals in his time, but I do find the interest in this remarkable.

We’re taking about transfer fees, and now we have to consider them for technical staff! It’s amazing how the game’s changed.

Listen, if Jim Ratcliffe thinks he can lowball Newcastle and can get his man by talking about him in the press, then he’s going about it the completely wrong way. If he really wants him to join the club and to start working for Manchester United, then he needs to satisfy Newcastle, because he’s under contract to the club. Newcastle don’t have any obligation to make Jim Ratcliffe’s life easier or Manchester United better.

If he’s that desperate to bring him into the club, he needs to stop talking about it and offer Newcastle the compensation they want. If that means paying a bit more than he would have wanted, then so be it. These public comments are only going to strengthen Newcastle’s resolve further. I don’t think their helping Ratcliffe. If you want him, give Newcastle what they’re asking for.

Antony Gordon, I know that he hasn’t been at Newcastle United for that long, but the club are reportedly set to offer him fresh terms. Apparently he’s a man in demand – would it be a statement of ambition if he signs a new contract and can he fulfil his ambition at the club?

Anthony Gordon has done well since he joined the club. He was a young player at Everton that had a lot of potential, and at times, he was the main man for a team that were really struggling.

I like his character. He took responsibility in that Everton team as a very inexperienced player, and he was easily Everton’s best player after he broke into the team.

Newcastle could see his potential and they brought him into the football club. He cost £40 million, and you have to say that is starting to look like a bit of a bargain when you consider his age and his potential to improve.

He’s twenty-three and the sky’s the limit for him. He used to annoy me with his diving, but we’re seeing less of that in his game, which is a good thing. He’s an explosive player; very positive. He takes the game to players and has the confidence to keep trying to beat people in a game when some players keep things simple.

I think it’s wonderful business for Newcastle United to give him a new contract, and he deserves it. Newcastle will want him tied down because there will be plenty of clubs that would love to take him. He’s got everything that all the best teams want in terms of his ability to score and create plenty of goals from the wing. He’s also really versatile.

Newcastle and Tottenham have been linked with a move for Morgan Gibbs-White – what would he offer to both clubs, and if you were in his shoes, who would you sign for given the choice?

I’ve watched Morgan Gibbs-White quite a lot over the last few years, and I like what I’ve seen of him. Nottingham Forest paid a lot of money to take him from Wolves after he wasn’t really playing, but the potential has always been there.

When he was on loan at Sheffield United, I spoke to a couple of guys at the club who only had positive things to say about him. They said he was a very good pro and was very confident, which is something you don’t always get from younger players.

The potential is definitely there. I would love to see what he could do playing for a top six or seven club, no disrespect to Nottingham Forest. If you put Gibbs-White into a team with better players, then he’s only going to improve. At times, he’s carried the burden of a poor Forest team, and that can take its toll.

If he had to choose between Newcastle United and Tottenham, then I think Newcastle would be a better fit for him. He primarily plays in that number ten role or supporting the strikers, and I think he would compliment Newcastle’s midfield of Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton.

With Maddison at Tottenham, I can’t see him playing in the role that he would want. Do Tottenham see Gibbs-White as more of a squad player or someone that can play in a number of positions? I can’t see him sitting on the bench at his next club, and there’s a danger that would happen if he joined Spurs. For me, he wouldn’t get into the team over James Maddison.

On Tottenham

Apparently, Tottenham are looking at versatile Leeds United youngster Archie Gray. What do you know about the player – do you think he is ready to make the step up to the Premier League?

I’ve seen enough of Archie Gray to say that he is a very good player. He’s a versatile player that can perform in a number of roles: midfield, full-back. That tells you two things about him: his manager trusts him to perform in numerous roles and he has the intelligence to do it. That’s rare for a player of eighteen-years-old. He was ever-present in that Leeds United team last season, so again, that’s a good sign.

His best role is in central midfield, and I think that's where he prefers to play.

He's an ideal Tottenham project. Tottenham have a history of buying young players and giving them an opportunity.  We’ve seen Tottenham make some very canny moves in the transfer market over the years with younger players. They can obviously see the potential that’s there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Gray followed the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric by joining Real Madrid for a massive fee if he lives up to his potential.

Tottenham can obviously see his potential. He was probably the pick of The Championship players in terms of his age and ability. I think he could easily step up to the level of the Premier League.

Whether he gets straight into the Tottenham team is a different question. I’m sure they will have a precise development plan for him which could see him join another Premier League club on loan.

He'd be a good signing for Tottenham Hotspur because he's only going to get better.





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