Rio Ferdinand has hit out at Gareth Southgate for suggesting Jadon Sancho lacks experience on the big stage and hopes the England manager is ‘brave’ with his selection for the side’s final group game against the Czech Republic at Euro 2020.
Borussia Dortmund sensation Sancho enjoyed an excellent end to the Bundesliga season, finishing with eight goals and 11 assists in the German top flight, but the 21-year-old is yet to play a single minute of England’s campaign.
Sancho was left out of the squad altogether as the Three Lions beat Croatia in their Group D opener before failing to make it off the bench as Southgate’s men were held to a goalless draw by Scotland at Wembley last Friday.
Results in Groups B and C meant England secured a place in the last 16 without a ball on Monday but England’s selection in attack has threatened to divide fans and pundits and Southgate was pressed for an explanation over Sancho’s continued absence at the weekend.
Asked why Sancho is yet to feature, Southgate told reporters: ‘We’ve got some explosive options and a lot of them are young players and experiencing a big tournament for the first time.
‘So as a coaching staff we are realistic about our expectations of them as individuals.
‘Jadon is in that mix. He’s trained well the last few days and of course we have got those options and those decisions to make.’
Southgate’s explanation of Sancho’s absence has not washed with former England defender Ferdinand, who talked up the youngster’s case for selection on his Rio Ferdinand Presents FIVE YouTube channel.
‘There’s inexperienced players that haven’t been to tournaments, they’re everywhere,’ the legendary ex-Manchester United centre-back said.
‘You go on what they’ve done at their club and the last three years, in terms of output, has been the second best player in terms of goal involvement over the last three years – and he’s done it at Dortmund.
‘So to think that you’re talking about experience… he’s played more games than [Phil] Foden at the top level as well as [Mason] Mount and [Jude] Bellingham.’
Ferdinand added: ‘I just feel that sometimes as a manager you’ve got to be brave.
‘You’ve got to be brave and don’t err on the side of caution. In Southgate’s mind he’s going to have to be brave because I think naturally he’s a more conservative person.
‘In his own mind he’ll think he’s being brave when we’re sitting here going: “Just play him!”
‘We’ve seen him play at the top level but if you’re sitting there as Gareth Southgate, you’ve got to go against your natural instinct.’
Ferdinand went on to accuse Southgate of having a ‘small team mentality’ with the seemingly negative approach he has adopted thus far in the tournament.
‘Do you know what it goes back to? It goes back to big team mentality,’ Ferdinand said.
‘He’s coaching and setting us up like a small team mentality.
‘A big team mentality manager would have gone into that game and said, “We’re going grab this bull by the horns, control the pace of the game, camp on the edge of their box and force them back into their half”, but we didn’t do that.’