Gareth Southgate is a great England manager and there is no debate about it - The Warm-Up
Gareth Southgate has spoken about his players' positions as role models again. Karim Benzema's injury shows the importance of keeping tournament football as it is. Steven Gerrard is set for a return to Anfield. And some of us - shamefully - have been pronouncing names incorrectly, particularly Swedish ones.
The merits of Gareth Southgate as a coach can still be debated. He is good, but is he great? Greatness is often - wrongly - defined by on-field success. So should England win the Euros - and they have a chance - he will go down as a great coach. To this observer's eye he has already confirmed his status as a great manager.
It is important here to define the difference between coach and manager. A coach is more involved with the tactics and all that gubbins and a manager is more, for want of a better word, politics - managing people and egos, and, more importantly, setting the beliefs and principles that underpin a club or team.
It is here where Southgate has excelled. In 2018, he managed to heal the broken relationship between the England national team and its fans. It was a relationship that had been strained for some time. However, it has begun to wane under the weight of the culture wars that are currently rife across society. The taking of the knee - a gesture of solidarity against inequality - has, for reasons that defy logic, become a controversial action.
Southgate and many of the England squad have shown admirable restraint in their continued explanations as to why the gesture should not be booed. Yet, it is continually booed.
"This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves," began Southgate. "Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.
I have never believed that we should just stick to football.
"I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold. At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players. It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate."
As a final note here: it should not be on Southgate, and certainly not the players, to educate the ignorant on the true meaning of a gesture of solidarity. It is incumbent on all of us to do that ourselves.
Southgate has shown himself to be a great and exceptional England manager, and the players are great representatives of a country that pockets of it barely deserve.
Southgate: England 'more determined than ever to take the knee' at Euro 2020 despite boos
The return of Karim Benzema - over before it started?
There has been some recent talk about the World Cup being moved to every two years. It is a nonsense. And the plight of Karim Benzema proves it so.
Benzema returned to the France fold after a six-year absence. However, his tournament may now be in doubt, and there is, in a way, a beauty to it. The four-year cycle of these tournaments make them precious, sought after and, well, novel. If the cycle is reduced to every two years then their appeal will wane.
The angst on Benzema's face as he nursed his injured leg during France's 3-0 win against Bulgaria spoke volumes of the importance of these tournaments. Let's leave them how they are shall we?
France's forward Antoine Griezmann (L) and France's midfielder Paul Pogba (R) talk to France's forward Karim Benzema, injured, during the friendly football match France vs Bulgaria ahead of the Euro 2020 tournament, at Stade De France in Saint-Denis, on t
Image credit: Getty Images
If Benzema's injury does rule him out of the tournament – although reports suggest it is just a dead leg - what impact will that have on France's status as favourites? Well, little probably. There is a train of thought that dictates adding Benzema to the squad may have upset the rhythm of the team. The basis of this theory is having the Real Madrid man at the point of the attack instead of Olivier Giroud substantially changes the way they play, which is a risk - perhaps an unnecessary one.
In Giroud they have a forward who is five goals off becoming his country's greatest goalscorer - so Les Bleus are in safe hands
Stevie G set for Anfield return
Calm down. Jurgen Klopp is going nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. And Steven Gerrard is not becoming Liverpool's next manager.
What is happening is that Rangers are taking a trip down the M74, M6 and a few other roads to play Liverpool in the newly inaugurated Steven Gerrard Derby, or for the Zoomers out there the Ryan Kent Derby.
Anyway, it is just reports at the moment but the suggestion is that friendlies such as these could be more prevalent this close season due to Covid restrictions.
The good people of UEFA have made a handy guide of difficult pronunciations ahead of the tournament.
The Sweden ones - embarrassingly - are mind-blowing. The Warm-Up should have known this years ago. Disappointing but illuminating. Here is the blurb on Sweden:
That ‘g’ at the end of surnames sounds a lot like an English ‘y’; the 'j' also sounds like a 'y', while the first 'o' in many surnames is pronounced more akin to a 'u'. Where there's an 'rs' combo, it is an English 'sh'.