Gareth Southgate changing formation will see Jude Bellingham play even BETTER… he can be England’s matchwinner again

WATCHING Jude Bellingham gives me feelings that I haven’t had since I was a kid.

As a fan, that amazing goal against Slovakia took me back.

Jude Bellingham stole the show for England against Slovakia


Jude Bellingham stole the show for England against SlovakiaCredit: Getty
The Real Madrid star has become England's star player


The Real Madrid star has become England’s star playerCredit: Getty
Gareth Southgate has given Bellingham the platform to perform


Gareth Southgate has given Bellingham the platform to performCredit: Getty

But with my coach’s hat on, it is now about whether he and England can deliver a complete display rather than one unforgettable moment.

Bellingham has an aura that you just don’t see very often.

My hero growing up was David Beckham. When I remember England, it’s his moments I think of, like the free-kick against Greece.

Not many players come up with those moments, especially when their country needs them the most.


Wayne Rooney was the only player who had anything close to that Beckham effect.

I think they were the only two shirts I had. I remember Rooney in 2004 when I would have been 12.

I have kids myself. My eldest is the age I was in 2004. I can see the Jude effect on him is like that, if not bigger.

He loves him, he watches him, he’s THE player, the one that he wants to be and looks up to.

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I know different people have had different reactions to the way Jude celebrated.

But part of me just loves that he has that confidence.

SunSport’s Latest Euro 2024 headlines

Southgate needs Mainoo to help cure England’s fear, says Jack Wilshere

KOBBIE MAINOO has shown he is the player that England need to build their midfield ­— and their team — around, writes Jack Wilshere.

That’s what I felt as it looked like we were slipping to defeat against Slovakia.

I know he was not on the pitch when our goals went in.

But until that unbelievable comeback, Mainoo was our best player.

He has a fearlessness and an instinct to do the right things at the right times that seemed to be lacking for so much of the game.

Mainoo alongside Declan Rice gives England better structure. In theory, at least, because for so long it didn’t look like that.

You can have any structure you like but if a team, individually and collectively, lacks confidence, you cannot use that structure effectively.

A fear can creep in. A fear of failing. A fear of losing the ball.

It is partly because of his age that Mainoo does not have that, or appears not to have it.

This was his first start in a major tournament. He does not know what it is like to have a bad one.

If we want to win this tournament, starting with the quarter-final against Switzerland, we will need to control games better.

Mainoo is the kind of midfielder England have been crying out for for a long time.

He can be the glue that holds together this team for the rest of the tournament and well into the future.

Read Jack Wilshere’s column in full.

Or check out all of Jack’s Euro 2024 opinions.

And there was more to it.

Jude was also saying, “I know I haven’t been good enough, you know I haven’t been good enough, but who else was it going to be?”

He and the team know they can’t rely on overhead kicks in the 95th minute. That’s not how you win tournaments.

When you coach young players like I do, you still want there to be a level of humility because they haven’t achieved anything yet in the game.

But you don’t want to coach their freedom out of them.

It is a tribute to the environment that Gareth Southgate has created with England that someone like Bellingham feels able to completely be himself.

People have been quick to jump on Gareth and say he’s safe and only wants a certain type of character. I think he does to an extent, and that’s only natural for a coach.

The question has always been: does he really like that personality that’s a bit out there?



Allowing Jude to be that guy and express himself — which is when you get the best Jude — is something that Gareth has managed really well.

When I look at where I want to get to as a coach, that is  a benchmark. Gareth has changed the culture in and around the England squad.

The work he has done is something I am sure the FA will continue with whenever he leaves the job.

The relationships he has created internally with players and staff — and externally with the media and the country — have made playing for England a better experience than it was when I was in the squad.

While I appreciate that things have been tough at this tournament, it feels like we were under more pressure in my era.

Hopefully Jude’s goal will be a real turning point, more than just a one-off moment that did not ultimately lead to anything.

It will give England and himself confidence. No matter how badly something is going, if you score a goal like that you gain a lot of confidence.

There’s a lot of talk about England going to a back three with wing-backs. I think it will suit us and Bellingham a little bit more, given how  we have been playing.

It gives us more structure in possession. We can easily drop to a back five out of possession if the opposition starts to get control in a game. It looks like we need that defensively.

It makes us more compact. It gives us that extra defender when the ball comes into the box. We can get pace in the wide areas, get the ball up the field quicker.

I would like to see more energy and penetration from England. When we have the ball, yes, be patient but, when it’s there to play through, do it.

Even if we lose it, let’s press again and get the ball back.

Bukayo Saka’s natural thought when he loses the ball at Arsenal is to go forward. He will want to press and if we do win the ball, it will give us the chance to hurt them on the counter-attack.

A 3-4-2-1 formation would also give Phil Foden and Bellingham the opportunity to play in their best positions, both behind Harry Kane.

Also if Harry comes a bit lower, we still have a player in Jude who can get in behind.

We want to see Jude in the final third more often. This set-up should do it.

I would like him to hold his position more, although I do understand why he sometimes comes out  to get the ball so he can make something happen.

But the switch in system should give him a better chance of producing another moment like he did against Slovakia.


Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka were team-mates at Arsenal


Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka were team-mates at ArsenalCredit: Reuters

WHEN Arsenal signed Granit Xhaka in 2016, I went out on loan to Bournemouth and he kind of took my position!

But in the end I played with him for a season and we got on well. I can’t speak highly enough of him as a player and a person.

We may have played against each other in younger age groups but one game I definitely remember was a Euros qualifier at Wembley at the end of the 2010-11 season, when I’d had a really good year.

Granit made his full debut in the game and it was one of my first starts for England.

Although I played well, we went 2-0 down but came back to draw — and he was really tough to play against, very aggressive.

When I came back to Arsenal, I loved playing with him. He was technically good and a top guy. 

Granit would be the first to say he’s not as good as Andrea Pirlo but he has something of that style about him. He knows when to slow the game down.


He controls possession for Switzerland — and England have to stop him doing that.

If we press him, put pressure on him, I’m not sure he’s the best in those situations. And if England do that and stop Granit doing what he does best, they will have a good chance of winning.

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