MICAH RICHARDS: Brilliant Jude Bellingham simply must play for England. His time is now

It was April 2021 when I first wrote about Jude Bellingham on these pages. I had seen him in action a few days earlier, for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City in a Champions League quarter-final first leg, and had been blown away.

The argument I made about Bellingham was the need for time. He was 17, clearly going places quickly, but I was concerned about expectation being thrust on his young shoulders and I didn’t want a clamour to start about him being central to England’s ambitions at the European Championship.

‘If it was me, I would leave him out of the squad,’ I stated. ‘This lad has his whole career in front of him and taking things slowly now could have spectacular results. Let him blossom and, in the end, something special could happen.’

Bellingham ended up making the Euro 2020 squad but he was conservatively and sensibly handled by Gareth Southgate, who gave him three substitute appearances along the way to the final — eight minutes against Croatia and 22 minutes against the Czech Republic in the group stage, and 25 minutes against Ukraine in the last eight.

Here we are 18 months later from that column and, again, I have just seen Bellingham play for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City in the Champions League.

This time my argument is a lot more straightforward: play him.

I still have to do a double-take when I look at his age. He is 19 and running midfields in games of the highest standards.

When I was 19 in the England squad, I was trying to find my feet and not look like a startled rabbit but this kid is just unbelievable.

It wasn’t just his goal — the way he arrived to instinctively head in — against City that made him stand out. It was the manner in which he was shouting at people, ordering them about and demanding the best from them, with his intelligence and fearlessness.

No longer are the words ‘could be’ appropriate when discussing him. There is no ‘could be’ about it — Jude Bellingham is already unbelievable and he is going to be at the heart of this England team for years to come, and I can’t wait to see his progress.

This is his time. I have no doubts at all that he will be central to Southgate’s plans in Qatar — not just in his squad but his starting line-up for the opening match against Iran — and these two Nations League ties against Italy and Germany are the perfect opportunity to see him flourish.

I can understand why Liverpool were so heavily linked with him this summer and why Jurgen Klopp reportedly is a huge admirer — there will no doubt be huge interest in every transfer window from now on.

He is special and you could see him playing for any team — whether it is Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid or whoever.

Let’s all hope that his progress for club and country is as outstanding as we believe it can be.

Gareth missing trick with Maddison snub

James Maddison’s England career amounts to just 34 minutes in a 7-0 win over Montenegro in November 2019.

It has been almost three years since he last represented his country but there is no sign that his exile will end any time soon.

That is such a shame. I would have loved to have seen him in this latest squad, for the games against Italy and Germany, and I believe the Leicester midfielder has been playing well enough to be included in the group Gareth Southgate selected.

Leicester were defeated 6-2 by Tottenham last Saturday but Maddison could not have done any more to turn things Leicester’s way — scoring the goal just before half-time that drew them level.

He played as he always does, with fearlessness and invention, and that’s hard to do in a struggling team.

Maddison has three goals so far this season. He scored 18 in 53 games last year and I have seen enough of him to feel certain when I say there is so much more maturity in his game. He can pick a pass and take an excellent set-piece; he works hard, runs miles and is always enthusiastic. But for England, he still gets overlooked.

Southgate has been bang on about so many things during his time in charge of England and this is not a view that is intended to cause any kind of diversion. But I just feel a trick is being missed in not giving him an opportunity to see if he can transfer his talents to the highest level.

Admittedly, Maddison didn’t do himself any favours when he was photographed in a casino in October 2019, the night England were playing in the Czech Republic. Maddison had pulled out of the squad for that game, having said he was unwell, and it was not a good look — even though he was handed his sole England cap a month later.

At the time, Southgate said Maddison would have ‘learned a lesson a hard way’ but as things stand, I wonder if the England manager is going to see whether there has been any change from a player who has so many different attributes.

In this squad for the games against Italy and Germany, England have 12 defenders. When you consider that Declan Rice can play as a central defender too, it implies that caution and keeping things tight is their priority. For what other reason would there be 13 defensive players?

Even when Kalvin Phillips withdrew over the weekend, there wasn’t even a slight possibility that Maddison would be drafted in as a wildcard to fill the void.

Gareth’s argument would certainly reference the four Nations League games in June. He played 4-3-3 against Hungary, in the last fixture at Molineux, and ended up seeing England get picked off on the counter-attack and lose 4-0.

He has studied the results of tournaments over a number of years and the most successful teams are the ones who keep clean sheets and, of course, I respect that view — how could you not respect a man who has taken England to a World Cup semi-final and European Championship final?

Taking the last step, however, requires players who have the courage to take risks and play passes that have a bit of imagination. In the final of Euro 2020, for instance, I never thought England were going to win once Leonardo Bonucci had equalised for Italy.

At the point in a game when things are tight, Maddison would be a fantastic option to introduce, say, in the 70th minute. He has the tools to change the direction of the match and provide the ingenuity that makes the difference.

Of course, I understand the value of clean sheets but to concentrate on the defensive side takes so much else away.

It would be understandable to prioritise the back four if we had the best back four or five in the world but we haven’t got that.

I have sympathy for Maddison because it must be hard knowing he is playing this well in a World Cup year but, for all that he pushes, the door back into the England squad won’t open. He has the qualities to offer this England team so much. It’s a shame, I feel, that we will not get to see them in Qatar.

Alexander-Arnold can be England’s weapon

When I back someone, I do it wholeheartedly and I never give them anything other than 100 per cent. I’ve done this with Trent Alexander-Arnold, I’m one of his biggest cheerleaders and I’m looking for him to raise his standards again.

In this crucial two-month period leading into Qatar, Trent has to ensure he gives his critics no reason at all to question him.

His attacking prowess has never been in doubt and his output speaks for itself.

But the microscope has often been at the other end of the pitch and now more than ever, he has to be 100 per cent focused on the defensive side of his game.

I’ve always believed Trent would be an England player for 10 years and more. He’s got outstanding ability and he sees the game differently to other right backs.

A fully focused Trent playing at the peak of his abilities would be an outstanding weapon for England in the coming months.

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  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Manchester United fans are seen leaving the Etihad BEFORE half-time against Manchester CIty

    A number of Manchester United fans were seen leaving just before half-time during a frustrating afternoon that saw their side thrashed by Manchester City.

    Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored twice as Pep Guardiola’s side headed into the interval with a commanding 4-0 lead.

    Just before the whistle went, the Sky cameras pointed to the exit gates at the Etihad and United fans’ frustration were seen as they headed for the exit.

    Foden opened the scoring after just eight minutes as he got on the end of Bernardo Silva’s cross before Haaland doubled City’s lead with a header.

    The Norwegian striker got on the end of Kevin De Bruyne’s superb cross to make it three before Foden piled more misery on the visitors.

    As United fans headed for the exit, Gary Neville, who was on commentary for Sky, said: ‘They’ve [the United supporters] had enough.

    ‘That last goal was an absolute pleasure to watch, absolutely brilliant. The first few minutes when [Diogo] Dalot got booked, Manchester United have never settled into this game. Forcing it, anxious, no composure, then pulled apart from an outstanding football team.

    ‘Haaland was quiet, we hadn’t seen him then he’s taken the game away from Manchester United in three blistering moments.’

    Haaland and Foden went on to complete their hat-tricks in the second half but United closed the gap in the scoreline through Antony and Anthony Martial in a 6-3 loss.

    United boss Erik ten Hag was left frustrated as he admitted his players lacked belief against the reigning champions.

    ‘It was a lack of belief,’ the United manager told Sky Sports. ‘I’m surprised why we didn’t bring that on the pitch. I have seen a different team, a different spirit and a different fight… We were not brave in possession. It is always difficult to find out.

    ‘The players know they can do better. If you don’t fight, then you have a problem against a team like Manchester City. This is definitely different [to the 4-0 defeat at Brentford]. We didn’t run there. We wanted to today but didn’t follow the principles.

    ‘I will show the team that we could have been front-footed. We win the ball then give it away for the first goal. We take wrong decisions in the transition afterwards. We don’t follow the rules so we are undisciplined. It cannot happen. It is unacceptable.

    ‘It is a process. It is one game. Maybe against other teams, the problems would not come but against Manchester City they will. I want to change the head and the attitude from the team. There was a reaction in the second half. We were more brave and scored three goals. Only from mistakes you learn.’

    United will need to regroup before a Europa League visit to Omonia in Cyprus on Thursday, before travelling to Frank Lampard’s Everton next Sunday.

  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Man City’s Laporte jokes he’s signed ‘more balls than contracts’ for Erling Haaland’s hat-tricks

    Amyeric Laporte has joked that he’s signed more balls for hat-trick hero Erling Haaland than he has signed contracts.

    Haaland made history as the first Premier League player to get a matchball in three consecutive home games, after netting half of Man City’s derby day tally against Man United.

    It followed on from his trio of goals against Crystal Palace and then Nottingham Forest, at the Etihad Stadium at the end of August.

    And 28-year-old Laporte, who has been at the club since 2018, noted the arrival of the Norwegian had also increased the number of mementoes that needed signing.

    Above his signature on Haaland’s hat-trick ball from the United game, Laporte wrote: ‘I have signed more balls for your hat-tricks than contracts.’

    The message was clearly shown in images with Erling next to his father, Alfie Haaland, who also spent three years at Manchester City in the early 2000s.

    Erling Haaland also posted a picture on Twitter of himself next to Phil Foden – who also scored a hat-trick against Manchester United.

    Laporte retweeted the image, attaching the comment: ‘This is going to cost a lot of money in foot balls lol’.

    Whilst holding onto the matchball after scoring a hat-trick is not an official part of the rules, it is a long held tradition in football, and one which has been embraced by City’s super strikers.

    In 2019, Haaland made a bizarre claim to Dagbladet that he slept with balls after a handful of hat-tricks for Red Bull Salzburg.

  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Furious fans SLAM Gary Neville for pre-match optimism ahead of Manchester derby

    Fans online have blasted Gary Neville for his pre-match optimism ahead of the Manchester derby, as City proceeded to tear apart their rivals United in the first-half.

    In a video posted to his Twitter, Neville claimed that Pep Guardiola’s side were ‘getting done’ after seeing the team sheets for both sides prior to kick-off.

    But after Erik ten Hag’s side conceded four goals, following a dominant first-half display from the hosts, fans have quickly called Neville out for his wild claims.

    In his Twitter video, Neville says: ‘Well, I’ve just seen the teams here at the Etihad and this lot are getting done! They’re getting done.’ The camera pans to show former City player Micah Richards.

    ‘Don’t count your chickens Gary,’ Micah warns. ‘My chickens have been counted,’ the United legend says.

    After City quickly dispelled Neville’s prediction, as they took a 4-0 lead into half-time with them, fans lamented the pundit for his bold claims.

    One fan wrote: ‘Gary Neville before the start of the game – City are getting done… Just like your punditry…not a blooming clue’.

    Another mentioned some his pre-match punditry by saying: ‘Gary Neville before the game started “United will be very much in this since it is away, they would counter city with both wide players”’, before adding a number of laughing emojis.

    ‘Is there a bigger jinx in world football than Gary Neville?’, one fan queried – suggesting the pundit was perhaps to blame for the result.

    Phil Foden opened the scoring early on for Pep Guardiola’s side before a quick-fire brace from Erling Haaland put City into cruise control.

    Foden then got his second thanks to Haaland to cap off a brilliant first half for City, resulting in hoards of United supporters heading for the exit and onto social media.

    The duo both got on the scoresheet again in the second-half to claim hat-tricks, as United’s Antony and a late Anthony Martial brace gave some respectability to the final scoreline for the visitors.

  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Robbie Mustoe SLAMS Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag’s tactics in first-half drubbing by Man City

    Following Man City’s first-half destruction of their rivals Man United, Robbie Mustoe had some strong words for manager Erik ten Hag, as he accused the Dutchman of getting his tactics wrong and said the team had been ’embarrassed.’

    City raced out to a 4-0 halftime lead behind two goals each from Phil Foden and Erling Haaland, who both finished with a hat-trick, as United were carved up all over the field en route to a 6-3 loss.

    Antony pulled a goal back for United in the 56th minute with a stunning left-footed strike before Anthony Martial scored a brace off the bench, but it didn’t change the outcome of the match after a poor showing from the Red Devils in the first half.

    ‘We admire a manager who trusts his players and says, “we’ve won the last four, we’re going to do the same thing again,’ Mustoe said on NBC Sports. ‘This is different, isn’t it?’

    ‘He’s got it wrong. The manager knows the profile of those midfield players. He knows that Antony isn’t gonna track back and help that side, they’ve been destroyed on that side.’

    ‘They’ve been embarrassed. And the main reason I said that Rebecca, about the lineup, is midfield players. The back four have been stretched like crazy, but when you’ve got midfield players that want to just attack and don’t want to defend and protect the back four.

    ‘Kevin de Bruyne is running free, running wild and destroying the team, as all the forwards are for city.

    Ten Hag started the match with Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay in central midfield with Bruno Fernandes ahead, as a relentless City piled pressure on United.

    De Bruyne assisted Haaland for two goals in the first half, as Jack Grealish ran rampant on the left wing as well, causing problems for Antony and Diogo Dalot. The right back picked up a yellow card in just the second minute.

    Six minutes later, City went ahead via a deft Foden finish.

    ‘This is a reappearance of the United from the first two games,’ Mustoe’s colleague Robbie Earle said. ‘All that hard work has been undone, all that points they’ve got… it’s gone in 45 minutes.’

    ‘This looks like the bad old Manchester United days again, which will have shocked Ten Hag at halftime. He’s has got work to do in that dressing room to at least stop the rot and make sure they don’t concede too many goals… but the players have to take responsibility as well. They’ve let him down today.’

  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Dylan Edwards and Nicho Hynes are SHOCK omissions from Kangaroos’ Rugby League World Cup squad

    Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes and Clive Churchill medallist Dylan Edwards have been surprisingly omitted from Australia’s Rugby League World Cup squad.

    After a stunning performance in Penrith’s Grand Final triumph on Sunday, Edwards was considered a potential late bolter for the Kangaroos squad.

    However, his superb display at Accor Stadium against Parramatta wasn’t enough to convince coach Mal Meninga and national selectors Laurie Daley and Darren Lockyer that he deserved a World Cup spot.

    Hynes also missed out on a place in the Kangaroos 24-man squad, which ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys announced on Monday morning.

    Meninga conceded leaving Edwards out of the squad had been a difficult decision.

    ‘He has had an exceptional year,’ he said.

    ‘It is a difficult situation when you can only pick 24 players. Our best player was the fullback in James Tedesco. We had several conversations about this. Unfortunately in this instance Dylan misses out.

    ‘He is our premier player. I thought he was the outstanding candidates. It was a pretty easy one.’

    Meninga, meanwhile, confirmed James Tedesco will be Australia’s new captain at the tournament, which kicks off in England in two weeks.

    The Roosters fullback replaces Boyd Cordner, who was skipper for the Kangaroos’ last Test in 2019.

    ‘Given the opportunity to captain and led the whole country, I don’t think there is a higher honour in the game,’ the Roosters captain said.

    ‘I am really proud of myself.’

    South Sydney forward Cameron Murray will be Australia’s vice-captain.

    There are 13 debutants in Meninga’s squad, who begin their World Cup defence in Leeds against Fiji on October 15.

    Among them is premiership-winning Penrith captain Nathan Cleary, who will jostle with Daly Cherry-Evans to wear the No. 7 jersey.

    Cleary enjoyed an outstanding season for the Panthers, but Meninga insisted he would ‘consider all options’ as far as the halfback role was concerned.

    ‘Daly is the incumbent as well. He was there three years ago and had a very good season, particularly Origin.

    ‘We will consider all options. That is what the tour is all about. everyone has the opportunity to prove that they deserve to be there at the back end of the tour.

    In the hotly-contested battle for the No. 9 roles on tour, Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook has missed out on the 24-man squad but will remain on standby.

    Meninga has banked on Queensland’s winning State of Origin formula with Maroons duo Ben Hunt and debutant Harry Grant set to rotate the hooking role as the Kangaroos seek a third-straight World Cup title.

    Cook, Hynes and Edwards are three players on standby.

  • 29 минут назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Brentford mock Man United on Twitter for being 4-0 down at half-time to rivals Man City

    Brentford have jumped at the opportunity to humiliate Manchester United even further following a dismal showing in the Manchester derby that saw United lose 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium.

    Man City were in cruise control at half-time with a well-deserved 4-0 lead thanks to goals from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden, both of whom went on to score hat-tricks.

    Brentford, fresh from their 0-0 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday, took their chance to remind downbeat United fans about their own demolition job of Erik ten Hag’s side earlier in the season.

    United’s first away game of the season saw the 13-time Premier League champions 4-0 down after 45 minutes, just the second time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

    Posting on Twitter, Brentford’s official account rejoiced at the interval scoreline as they drew similarities between themselves and Pep Guardiola’s unbeaten City side.

    At the time of publication the post shared with Brentford’s 287,000 followers had achieved over 220,000 interactions with many supporters from other clubs joining in to heap more misery on United supporters.

    The social media humbling from another Premier League side clearly infuriated United fans that were reeling from their team’s on-pitch performance with one supporter replying: ‘Where’s your Premier League title?’.

    Others cut a more downtrodden figure admitting that United are now a ‘laughing stock’.

    Goals from Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee, and Bryan Mbeumo put Brentford in control when the two side’s met in August as Thomas Frank masterminded his team to a stunning victory.

    Just over a month later, United again found themselves four goals behind at the break as Man City showed their class in the Manchester derby.

    Victory for Guardiola’s side saw City reduce the gap between themselves and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table to just one point, while United remain sixth in the standings, nine points off top spot.

    Man City will host Southampton in the Premier League next weekend with United seeking to bounce back with an away trip to Everton.

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Sport MICAH RICHARDS: Brilliant Jude Bellingham simply must play for England. His time is now