Burton-on-Trent: England must learn to be more streetwise but ward against arrogance, interim manager Gareth Southgate said ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against old enemies Scotland at Wembley.
Southgate said the difference between arrogance and confidence had come up during a squad meeting before the game, which is the third assignment of his four-match tenure.
‘Arrogance’ has become a buzzword for some modern coaches, with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and Belgium national coach Roberto Martinez among those to have hailed its importance.
But Southgate said: “I think arrogance suggests you take the opposition for granted, that you can’t be hurt or you can’t lose. I think that is the difference.”
Southgate cited Paul Gascoigne’s famous goal against Scotland at Euro 96, when he flicked the ball over Colin Hendry before volleying home, as an example of confidence that had not strayed into arrogance.
“It is great to have huge belief in your ability, which Gascoigne’s goal was,” he told reporters at England’s St George’s Park headquarters in Burton-on-Trent on Thursday.
“That is an example of an incredibly creative mind. I don’t think he was trying to humiliate a player.
“He was just seeing in his mind, instinctively, a way to get past the player in front of him and finish it. That is a sign of genius.”
Southgate has confirmed Wayne Rooney, England’s present-day talisman, will return to the starting XI against Scotland.
Rooney began last month’s 0-0 draw away to Slovenia on the bench, having lost his place at Manchester United, but he has started United’s last two games and looks to be finding form.
“Class is permanent, isn’t it?” Southgate said.
“We all have moments as players where you have runs of games. Part of being a player is grinding out the difficult moments.
“There are matches and periods where you know you are not at your best. They are the games you have to grind out and play your part for the team.
“Then there are other games where things are happening more naturally. To me he looks like he is just heading into that period. That is great for us.”
While Southgate wants to see England’s players show humility, he believes they are sometimes guilty of showing a too keenly developed sense of fair play and need to be more “streetwise”.
He pointed to an incident during England’s 1-0 friendly win over Portugal prior to Euro 2016 when Harry Kane tried to play on despite being kicked in the head by Bruno Alves, who was sent off.
“Harry nearly got decapitated against Portugal and tried to keep going,” Southgate said.
“A lot of feedback to me would be: ‘It’s a joke: you’re telling him to go down and get the other player sent off. It’s not British.’
“I’d be one of the first to — at the right moment — do the right thing. But we are on the pitch. We want to win. So, there is obviously an edge.
“I don’t encourage players to cheat. But if somebody fouls us and it is a foul and it should be a yellow card, sometimes you have to make sure that decision is taken.
“I think if a player is kicked and is hurt, just to bounce up and shake hands — I don’t know if that’s the rules that the rest of the world are playing by.”
He added: “I know that won’t be a popular opinion, but I’m in a professional sport, so you’ve got to be respectful of the laws.
“I don’t encourage cheating at all or diving. But there are moments in games when you’ve got to smell what the right thing is.
“I’ve been involved in matches like in Saint-Etienne in 1998 (when England lost to Argentina in the World Cup) where some of those things have swung the game.
“Nobody turns around and says: ‘Oh well, we did the right thing and what a shame.'”