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‘Intense’ season makes preparing for Euros harder than usual – Gareth Southgate


England boss Gareth Southgate says his preparations for Euro 2020 have been made harder by the condensed Premier League season.

The European Championship is being played this summer, having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the domestic season starting and finishing later than normal, England players will have little time to prepare for the tournament, with just 10 days between the final Premier League game and a warm-up friendly with Austria.

England manager Gareth Southgate is gearing up for Euro 2020

England manager Gareth Southgate is gearing up for Euro 2020 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Southgate, who is involved in the 2021 Football Association and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards, has vowed to ensure his squad get proper mental and physical rest, but says it will be harder than usual.

“The tournaments are always at the end of a busy season,” he told the PA news agency.

“This has been slightly more intense by a couple of weeks and of course there wasn’t a bigger break at the end of last season.

“It has definitely been more challenging for everybody.

“But we have to make sure our schedule of training and the demands we ask on our players gives them the chance to psychologically refresh as well as make sure we are in the best physical condition.”

With three months to go until the tournament, the logistics are still to be finalised, with games due to be hosted in 12 cities around the continent.

Plans are not expected to be set until next month, giving Southgate another issue to contend with.

“We have to keep making sure we are on track for our broader planning of hotels, training grounds, everything we do medically,” he said.

“We are constantly having to review that, it is at least weekly. Things do change, but things change quickly for everybody at the moment.

“We have had to be adaptable, we will have to continue to be adaptable and I don’t see that changing. I feel like we are heading in a good direction and there is more enthusiasm and possibility of some fans in stadiums for certain matches and let’s hope we stay on track towards that goal.

Gareth Southgate helps launch the Grassroots Football Awards, a joint initiative between the FA and McDonald’s (Fabio De Paola/PA)

Gareth Southgate helps launch the Grassroots Football Awards, a joint initiative between the FA and McDonald’s (Fabio De Paola/PA)

“We have just got prepared to be whatever comes our way.”

England are due to play their three group games at Wembley, as well as a possible semi-final and final, and doing well could have an untold positive impact on the grassroots game in the country.

Southgate says his players are aware of their opportunity to inspire a new generation of football fans.

“Part of the privilege of representing England is to inspire young people,” he added. “The lads playing now have got that opportunity now to inspire kids all across the country and especially across the areas they grew up in.

“Whenever we select a player for their debut that is one of the points they make.

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“The kids from the areas, the communities you grew up in will be inspired by you, will be able to see you and they will be able to relate to you and realise there is an opportunity.

“However difficult the journey is, you will be showing people what is possible and also bringing enjoyment and excitement to those who don’t play the game.”

The Grassroots Football Awards, a joint initiative between the FA and McDonald’s, recognise and celebrate the work of volunteers who have a positive impact upon their clubs and community.

It has been an especially tough 12 months for grassroots football, with coaching classes, leagues and group sessions cancelled at regular intervals because of Covid-19.

Southgate thinks, though, that what younger players have gone through could stand them in good stead for the future.

“It is incredibly sad that from a football and health and well-being perspective our kids haven’t been able to get out and be with other youngsters, enjoy the game, keep fit physically and mentally,” he added. “Fingers crossed we are heading in a right direction with the vaccine and those pitches that have been empty for so long, we can get out there and start again.

“That is so important. It has been great to see kids back at school this week and be able to see them back on our football pitches.”

On the awards, which have 12 categories including the prestigious Bobby Moore Award, Southgate said: “We know that grassroots football is the heart and soul of the game and without so many coaches, administrators who are all volunteers then we don’t have a game really.

“That is what makes it so special, we are reliant on those to keep the game going. These awards a way of recognising those people who are unsung.”