The off the cut from the Aston Villa captain, Jack Grealish could unleash the attacking potential in a gifted England generation but the manager is reluctant.
In the England’s team history, it was the first time a man of the match full debutant failed to get a single minute on the pitch three days later in the next game.
Southgate’s relationship with Grealish has moved on from suspect to a faintly ridiculous in the previous week. It has escalated from glaring squad omissions from spurious reasons to weirdly evasive answers to questions concerning Villa’s captain’s performance in the England jersey.
Moreover, Southgate seems to be desperate to speak of anything else after the 3-0 victory over Wales. Most notably, the qualities of Grealish’s main rival for a spot, Mason Mount. It was a baffling next step in a relationship that has always been easy.
To begin with, there was the explanation Southgate couldn’t pick Grealish until he acquired the Premier League experience. A condition given despite the fact Mount had received a call up while on loan at Derby County.
Following was the mysterious overlooking of Grealish during a purple patch of form in the 2019 Autumn. Then came the strange explanation there was too much competition from Sancho, Greenwood and Rashford.
Next came a bizarre, unprompted reference to Villa’s fans “who have never forgiven me for leaving for Middlesbrough” when discussing Grealish’s continued absence from the squad.
Therefore, it seems Grealish is incapable of changing Southgate’s mind now matter how well he plays for the country and club. On the other hand, Southgate is unshakable in his belief his layers must diligently conform to a functional battle plan.
While this might appear to be an isolated incident, Southgate’s preference for Mount over Grealish symbolizes a wider problem. When the moment calls for idiosyncrasy, Southgate chooses pragmatism and as the England squad becomes progressive, Southgate retreats to conservation.