England manager Gareth Southgate has explained the reason he withdrew substitute Jack Grealish in his side’s Euro 2020 semi-final on Wednesday and claimed the forward ‘understood’ the decision.
Despite having starred in England’s two warm-up games prior to this summer’s tournament, the 25-year-old hasn’t been given the game time many Three Lions fans have been crying out for him to be afforded.
Grealish has been included in the starting XI just once so far at Euro 2020 – as England faced the Czech Republic having already qualified from Group D – with the rest of his appearances coming via cameo roles as a substitute.
The Villa man was brought off the bench yet again in England’s semi-final win over Denmark on Wednesday night, yet he suffered the embarrassment of being hauled off in extra-time after the Three Lions had taken a 2-1 lead.
When asked how Grealish reacted to being substituted just 35 minutes after coming on, Southgate claimed he was fine with the decision and that it was done purely to shore up the defence as Denmark went in search of a late equaliser.
“He’s fine, he understood, he was terrific when he came on he gave us momentum,” he told reporters (via Metro).
“But we know when they’ve [Denmark] gone behind in games they’ve thrown four men up front so we needed to get an extra defender on just to make sure we were more solid and I wanted to keep Raheem’s [Sterling] speed on so it meant taking one of the two boys off who had just come on.”
Southgate hasn’t been afraid to chop and change his starting XI throughout the tournament, with Bukayo Saka emerging as a surprise favourite of the England boss.
It remains to be seen whether Grealish will be afforded his chance from the off in the final against Italy on Sunday, or whether Southgate will once again opt to utilise the twinkle-toed forward from the bench.