Gareth Southgate to put England players on revenge mission to send Wales home

Gareth Southgate winks at Harry Kane - Reuters
Gareth Southgate winks at Harry Kane - Reuters

Gareth Southgate has suggested he will send his players out on a revenge mission in their World Cup ‘battle of Britain’ by reminding them of the infamous leaked video of Wales players celebrating England’s humiliating Euro 2016 defeat by Iceland.

And Southgate has not ruled out using comments made by Wales players about England as further motivation for his side to knock their British neighbours out of the World Cup.

Wales must beat England to stand any chance of remaining in the tournament, which gives Southgate’s team the chance to turn the tables on Gareth Bale and Co by sending them home early.

Bale was part of the Wales squad who were caught on film celebrating England’s demise in June 2016.

Asked if he would show his England players that clip or pin up comments made by Wales in the dressing-room ahead of kick-off on Tuesday night, Southgate smiled broadly and said: “I couldn’t say! We are aware of some of that, but I couldn’t say if we would use it or not.”

While Southgate did not expressly confirm he would remind his players of the video, his reaction and smile left the distinct impression he intended to.

Wales players Kieffer Moore and Sorba Thomas had both said they would relish the chance to knock England out of the World Cup, but Jordan Henderson responded by saying: “We don’t need extra motivation. We are motivated to win games. We’ve got to do our talking on the pitch and that’s what we’ll do.”

A grab of Wales celebrating England being knocked out of Euro 2016
A grab of Wales celebrating England being knocked out of Euro 2016

Southgate is well aware that England will face a highly-motivated opponent in Wales, but dismissed any suggestion that Tuesday night will be a bigger occasion for Rob Page’s team than his own.

“When we played Scotland [in the Euros], physically they found a level they hadn’t found before and couldn’t find in the game after,” said Southgate. “So that is the nature of this game.

“But you have to ride through that and make sure our quality counts and we are composed in our play. You have to match the spirit and display the quality with the ball that allows us to be ruthless.”

Southgate conceded that Wales have a “great”, “stirring” national anthem, but completely dismissed any theory that England are not just as passionate as their opponents.

“I think if people want to say that, then no problem but they wouldn’t know our dressing room very well, or any of the England dressing rooms I was in as a player,” said Southgate. “That’s an easy narrative for people to say, but it’s not my experience of it.”

England narrowly beat Wales 2-1 in a tight game during the group stages of the Euros in 2016 and Southgate acknowledged that the ‘derby’ nature of the fixture can act as a leveller.

“Cup ties can be, but we have to make sure our emotional focus is on what we do well,” said Southgate. “I think our boys have got experience of these types of games. We have got to use the ball well, we’ve got to make sure we are thinking about how to break down a difficult defence.

“No two games are the same. We recognise we are focusing on our performance, we have to play well, we want to put the two parts of our game together, we have shown the first game how we can attack.

“We showed another side to ourselves in the second game and we have to merge those two things as we go through the tournament to be a serious contender in the championship.”