Gareth Southgate feels England’s Euro 2024 bid will benefit from Ben Stokes talk

Test captain Stokes imparted his wisdom to the England players going for Euro 2024 glory.

Gareth Southgate believes England’s Euros bid will benefit from cricket star Ben Stokes’ “brilliant session”
Gareth Southgate believes England’s Euros bid will benefit from cricket star Ben Stokes’ “brilliant session”

Gareth Southgate believes England’s Euros bid will benefit from cricket star Ben Stokes’ “brilliant session” on adapting a fearless mindset whilst embracing pressure and nerves.

The Euro 2020 finalists’ preparations to go one better this summer are under way, with the majority of the squad convening at their temporary County Durham base on Wednesday.

England welcomed a special guest to Rockliffe Hall over the weekend as they put in the groundwork for Germany, with Test captain Stokes imparting his wisdom to those going for Euro 2024 glory.

“Ben Stokes came in yesterday which I thought was a brilliant session,” manager Southgate said on the eve of Monday’s warm-up friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“In my head he’s one of the few English sportsmen that I felt could impact them, make them think.

“He’s authentic, he talked brilliantly about getting the right balance of fearlessness but recognising that anybody’s going to have nerves.

“It’s still making good decisions under pressure. He was able to talk to them about some leadership aspects, the culture he’d tried to create.

“I think that backed up some of the things we’re doing so we were pleased that reaffirmed some ideas as well.

“I just think he’s a hugely impressive guy that’s relatable to their age. And anybody who’s performed as well as he has for England…

Ben Stokes has repeatedly delivered under pressure
Ben Stokes has repeatedly delivered under pressure (Mike Egerton/PA)

“That was a really good session that worked well for us.”

Stokes watched England train on Saturday and had lunch with them before speaking to a group featuring all but four of Southgate’s provisional 33-man squad.

That selection has to be cut to 26 and submitted to UEFA on Friday evening, meaning some tough decisions lie ahead for the manager and his staff.

Southgate spoke to the younger players at the start of camp to help manage expectations, but the door remains open ahead of the friendlies against Bosnia and Iceland.

“With the younger ones who it’s their first time (I spoke to them),” the England manager said.

“Equally, things can happen and they can force their way in. I think they understand that.

“I said to the rest of the group on day one that the elephant in the room is there’s 33 here but if you want to come and speak to me I’m happy to sit and explain as much as I can.

“No-one’s taken that offer up yet! But they know they can approach me and I’ll always be as transparent as I can be.

“I’m not trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes or give people unrealistic expectations or dampen down expectations.

“But there is a reality on one or two injuries, do we need more cover in an area of the pitch that might knock on to different aspects of the team?”

Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire are England’s main concerns, but Southgate has been pleased by the defensive duo’s progress.

Anthony Gordon is another absent from Monday’s match against Bosnia but the manager says he is also making progress, while Bukayo Saka and John Stones will sit out the friendly.

England’s Jack Grealish during a training session at Rockliffe Park
England’s Jack Grealish during a training session at Rockliffe Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The latter is part of a four-strong Manchester City contingent, but Kyle Walker and Phil Foden are still enjoying a break whereas Jack Grealish joined the defender in linking up early.

The 28-year-old has endured a difficult campaign and faces fierce competition for a place in the final selection.

“I haven’t talked to him specifically about the cup final,” Southgate said.

“But he has been really bright and he loves being here. He’s had a good energy about his training.

“It’s obvious this season he has not played as much as last season.

“I’m sure he would have liked that to be different but we know the qualities he can bring and the qualities he has and he is a player we enjoy working with and a character we enjoy having within the group.”

Southgate says England are not yet defining the cut lines as he juggles injury and selection headaches, adding “time is our friend this week” and that 26-man squads are a “real bonus”.

“A lot of good players in that area of the pitch and they are all competing,” he said of Grealish.

“We think we know who the best have been across the season.

“What we don’t totally know is how many we need to take or how many we can allow ourselves to take because of the cover we might need in other positions as well.”