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Rob Green: Gareth Southgate has made playing for England fun again

Rob Green insists Gareth Southgate has made playing for England a more enjoyable experience than when he represented the Three Lions.

Southgate, 52, is currently in the middle of his third major tournament at the top, having led the nation to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia and the Euro 2020 final four years ago.

Spirits are high ahead of today’s Group B game against the United States after a 6-2 win over Iran on Monday.

The team’s performances stand in stark contrast to previous disappointments before Southgate took the reins, including a memorable performance by England at the 2010 World Cup under Fabio Capello – a tournament Green started No 1.

Green, 42, assessed the impact the current boss has had on players to LiveScore: “I played with him, that’s how old I am! He was in my very first England squad as a player.

“I think it’s just different styles. Capello was more of a headmaster figure. He only addressed you by your last name, communication was limited.

“And I think he was pretty unnerving in the way he gave and presented feedback. Gareth is not like that. It just goes to show that the game has changed in many ways.

“He found the ability to allow them to play without that worry. There’s an old saying ‘Your shirt weighs you down’.

“He found a way to make the jersey lighter for a lot of players. He found different ways and what he has is the knowledge of being an English player not so long ago.

“Whether this is his last tournament, whether he’s got something left or how long he’s had, he’s brought it to that side of the game and set a new standard in that regard.”

nightmare in South Africa

Rob Green made an infamous mistake the last time England faced the United States in a World Cup in 2010
Rob Green made an infamous mistake the last time England faced the United States in a World Cup in 2010

In that miserable 2010 season in South Africa, England narrowly qualified from the group stage before being beaten 4-1 by Germany in the Round of 16.

The 1-1 draw with USA in the opening game was marred by an infamous error by Green, which put Clint Dempsey’s feeble shot from long range into the net to nullify Steven Gerrard’s early opener.

It was the only World Cup game of his career, as Capello replaced him with David James for the remainder of the tournament.

As Southgate’s men prepare to face the Americans later, the former West Ham and QPR stopper opened up that nightmare game in Rustenburg.

He added: “Everything about it was a little bit weird. There was an odd setup, we had very little downtime.

“We had very little cohesion in the squad. It was a squad full of players coming out of retirement, players getting injured in games, players getting injured in training.

Rob Green believes the 2010 England squad wasn't as tight-knit as this season
Rob Green believes the 2010 England squad wasn’t as tight-knit as this season

“We’ve had players who didn’t get picked who were part of the qualifying campaign all the way through who were then dropped.

“We’re talking about England’s current established goalkeeping unit…we didn’t have that at all. I was told I would start two hours before kick-off.

“And the game itself was weird. We started so well and ended up clinging.

“The environment we were in was not a football field. It was dimly lit, fans felt miles from the pitch.

“So it was really quite strange and the start of a really disappointing World Cup – it kind of encapsulated the whole thing.”

Strength in numbers

England got off to an excellent start to the World Cup in Qatar with a 6-2 win over Iran
England got off to an excellent start to the World Cup in Qatar with a 6-2 win over Iran

With such a costly moment on the biggest stage, criticism of Green flew in from all quarters.

It’s a similar level of testing that the current generation of players has experienced at times – despite their encouraging performances at the highest level.

Southgate’s decision to put disgraced Manchester United man Harry Maguire in the starting XI against Iran was writ large, but he responded with a confident performance at the heart of England’s defence.

What would Green Maguire and co say about dealing with pressure? With a smile on his face, he said, “Don’t listen to people like me!

“Look, they’re an experienced squad, they’ve been through something like that in big tournaments.

“I would say turn off your phones. Just enjoy the process, enjoy playing without fear, playing without worry.

“What they did in tournaments really embraced who they are and they came together as a unit – I think that’s key.

“That helps endlessly. I don’t think we really had that. We didn’t have that cohesion as a group and we suffered because of it.

“You have to be in your bubble. They are far from home and this will probably help them. Finding that unit for the tournament is key.”

Rob Green will join BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds to cover every World Cup match. You can also watch the World Cup on the BBC via TV, iPlayer and the BBC Sport app.

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