We love him – Luke Shaw does not understand criticism of Gareth Southgate

Wednesday’s Euro 2024 showdown with the Netherlands represents a third semi-final in four tournaments for England.

Gareth Southgate brought Luke Shaw on against Switzerland
Gareth Southgate brought Luke Shaw on against Switzerland (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Luke Shaw does not understand the criticism of Gareth Southgate given the England manager has taken a group of players that love him to another semi-final and “the next level”.

Wednesday’s Euro 2024 showdown with the Netherlands represents a third semi-final in four tournaments for a team that went within penalties of winning the last edition three years ago.

Southgate has overseen England’s greatest period of success since Sir Alf Ramsey’s side won the World Cup in 1966 but there has been an air of negativity around him throughout the summer.

The under-fire manager spoke about the ridicule, hurtful personal criticism and beer cups thrown his way after Saturday’s quarter-final shoot-out win against Switzerland.

It was his 100th match and a fourth tournament in charge, with left-back Shaw puzzled by those criticising Southgate given his track record and England’s history.

“To be honest, I don’t really understand the criticism,” the Euro 2020 final goalscorer said.

“I think what he’s done for the country, for us as players as well. I think he’s really took us to the next level. I think no manager has really been as successful as him as what he’s done recently.

“It’s now another semi-final, and for me and us as players we love him. I think he’s really good. He’s exactly what we need. For us, he always puts the players first and for that we’re able to go out on the pitch and try to be at our best.

“I think, for me, personally, I’ve got a lot to thank him for, because he showed a lot of faith and trust in picking me when he didn’t have to. For that, I’ll always be thankful.

“But for me now I need to repay the faith that he’s shown in me.”

Shaw praised the “real togetherness” Southgate has cultivated, saying it has helped them dig deep as both of this summer’s knockout matches went to extra-time.

Most importantly, the 28-year-old says he has imbued a belief in a group that was lacking during his first tournament experience in 2014 as England went out in the World Cup group stage.

“Definitely the belief,” Shaw said of the change under Southgate.

“I think we’ve got way more belief now than we ever had and also the togetherness – and it helps with the players we’ve got now at our disposal.

“We’ve got world-class players all over the pitch and it’s now time, the crunch (time) when those players will step up.

“In these moments that’s what you need, and everyone is really looking forward to another semi-final and trying to reach another final.”

Standing in England’s way of a first final on foreign soil, and another shot at becoming kings of the continent for the first time, is the Netherlands.

Shaw knows Memphis Depay and Wout Weghorst well from their time at Manchester United, whose Dutch manager Erik ten Hag sent him a “cheeky message about the game”.

“To be honest I don’t think they have got any (weaknesses),” he said.

Luke Shaw returned to action on Saturday
Luke Shaw returned to action on Saturday (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“They are a really good team, really well coached but in my eyes we just have to focus on what we have got to do.”

Shaw says he is fit to start the Signal Iduna Park semi-final having made his first appearance since February having finally overcome nagging hamstring issues.

Asked if he thinks he can be the missing link to help England play more attractive football, the only out-and-out left-back in the squad said: “I don’t know. It’s a tough one to answer.

“The most important thing is to win games – winning games and getting through to the next round. Whether you play good or bad football, the most important thing is winning games, and at the moment we’re doing that.

“Of course I would like to think I’ll help the team when I come back in. At the moment, whether people like it or not, the way the team are playing, for us we’re in the semi-finals. That’s all that matters.”