Ahead of Euro2020, 101 spoke with ex-England and Manchester City centre-back Joleon Lescott about England’s prospects at the forthcoming tournament and his assessment of Gareth Southgate’s offensive options.
Lescott had an illustrious playing career, featuring 26 times for England over a 17-year spell in England’s top two divisions.
His career reached a zenith during his five seasons with Manchester City, when he won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup.
Lescott, who is now retired, is looking forward to bringing in the next generation of English talent and expressed optimism about the Three Lions’ possibilities when we asked him about it.
To begin, we inquired about his assessment of England’s front three. According to the former defender:
“You may choose three players from a pool of six or seven. That is perhaps the most difficult choice to make, and what I believe we as supporters need to understand is that we are not selecting 11 individuals who will play every minute of every game. We need to be able to say, ‘Okay, these are the three players who will start this game, and then we may add another three in the following game.’
I believe Harry Kane will play every minute if he is healthy, which means there will be two players who will compliment him, which will change depending on the opponents we face. That is not something we are used to as a country. We’re not accustomed to our England team being rotated. We’re used to saying ‘1-11 play’. We need to get accustomed to seeing numbers other than 1-11 in the starting lineup.”
Q. Apart from Kane, who are the offensive players that excite you?
“Every single one of them, absolutely every single one of them. In their present form, I believe Phil [Foden] and Jack [Grealish] will line up beside Kane.”
“I remain convinced that Southgate will opt for a back three, which implies a midfield four followed by a forward three. On current form, I’d want to see Jack and Phil, but if they’re not available, you’re going to choose Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, which I’m not disputing.
“To be honest, I don’t believe there are any terrible options, which is a lovely place to be. I don’t believe you can go wrong with the front line, since they are all elite players.”
What is it about this frontline that makes it so exciting?
“I believe this generation is unique.”
“I believe they are courageous in their approach to the play of the game. I believe they have the freedom to go and play football regardless of the results; they just want to demonstrate what they can do and what they are excellent at.”
“It is gratifying to see, and given some of the athletes I know, that is all they care about. They just want to play and perform. Once they’re out there, they’re going to give it their all.”
Is it possible for it to return home?
“Of course! With my heart, I’m going to pick England, but with my mind, I’m going with France. They are a threat if they appear, but in terms of what England is capable of, I am certain we can win this tournament.”