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TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
File this story in the things you never thought you’d read folder. Or write, for that matter.
Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood, just days after making their England debuts, have now been axed from the squad after breaching coronavirus quarantine guidelines in Iceland, with Snapchat appearing to play its role in proving the youngsters invited two women back to their hotel room.
Foden has apologised and acknowledged his “poor decision”, England manager Gareth Southgate has branded the pair “naïve”, Manchester United are “disappointed” with Greenwood, while Manchester City called Foden’s actions “totally inappropriate”.
It is going to be the most public of lessons for Foden and Greenwood. For every action, there is not always an equal and opposite reaction, and no matter how small they may have thought their actions were in the hotel at the time, the duo are now seeing the mighty consequence of their actions – on the front and back pages.
‘You Idiots’ – Express. ‘Dumb and Dumber’ – Daily Star. ‘Stupid Boys’ – Mail. Meanwhile, the Mirror went with ‘Kicked out in disgrace’ on the back and ‘You Stupid Boys’ on the front.
This is nothing new for England players. It is easy fodder for certain papers, a simple chance for name-calling, the modern-day version of the stocks where the guilty parties must simply sit there and take what’s thrown at them.
It will be some time before they are released from the chains of this public humiliation, but in Southgate they have a manager who will back his players – mainly because he’s running out of ones without a chequered record, but also because (albeit after simply missing a penalty) he knows what it is like to face negative press:
I think I’m very conscious that these two boys are going to walk into something that’s going to be very intense, and very difficult for them at their age to deal with. Whether people like it or not I’ve got to try and support them and I’ve got to try and not add to how difficult their situation is going to be. That said, I will be very clear with them on my feelings and how they need to respond.
What will concern Southgate more, however, is that there is a revolving door of ‘scandal’ involving England players, what with Kyle Walker and Jack Grealish’s antics in lockdown, Harry Maguire’s recent arrest, Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling’s bust-up last year.
Southgate needs to get a grip of his squad. He has the air of that level-headed teacher everyone in the class likes, but there is a leniency there which is enabling the pupils to act out. Not just his fault, mind, but he must get stricter.
JAMES IS A BLUE
File this picture in the things you never thought you’d see folder.
James Rodriguez | Everton
Image credit: Getty Images
It’s 2020 after all, and so of course Everton have signed James Rodriguez of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich fame.
The player who scored that World Cup goal in 2014 will now be plying his trade at Goodison Park some six years later, but mock not, this is a sensational coup for Everton and another one straight from the Carlo Ancelotti contact book.
“I’m convinced, with Carlo and his technical staff, we can achieve big things and one of the big reasons [I signed] was the presence of Carlo Ancelotti,” Rodriguez said.
“I have enjoyed some great times with him previously at two different clubs. That was a massive reason to come here.”
First Allan, now James, the Ancelotti factor is in full swing on Merseyside. Are they getting back at Wolves and Leicester’s level? Could they break into the top six? Will this make them go from 12th to 10th? Questions, questions, questions. The answers will start being answered on Sunday at Tottenham.
HAALAND IS THE MAN
File this video (yeah, we’re carrying on with this) in the things you’re getting very used to seeing folder. Erling Haaland, scoring goals, scoring bangers.
Safe to say, Eurosport’s Benjamin Snowball is getting very excited about Norway’s Euro 2021 prospects having tipped the nation for glory – despite the fact they still have to navigate through the play-offs.
He has said it before, and he will say it again. Again.
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IN THE CHANNELS
The not-so-secret Manchester United third kit got a pre-unveiling plug from some King Arthur: Legend of the Sword extra…
Ian Hawkey on Barca’s next great hope for The Times. Look after this one, guys.
There is a hint of the young Michael Owen in Ansu Fati. It is not so much in the style of their football but in the clear-eyed sense of purpose, and the way in which they rapidly breeze past landmarks, the fact of making history look like simple routine.
England. In Denmark. Minus Foden and Greenwood, of course. Sweden-Portugal too, and a tasty World Cup 2018 rematch as France host Croatia.
Indeed it is Ben Snowball who will deliver tomorrow’s verdict on today’s games and somehow try to mention Norway as well. Again.