Gareth Southgate has worked hard on set pieces.
Gareth Southgate has worked hard on set pieces.

England fractured by World Cup civil war

ENGLISH coach Gareth Southgate has told the travelling British media pack to choose between their country and their jobs after sensitive information was released.

The relationship between the team and the press was fractured when England's assistant manager Steve Holland accidentally carried a sheet of paper with what appeared to be the line-up for Sunday's game against Panama to a training session that was open to the media.

A photographer managed to snap the piece of paper and on close inspection it appeared to reveal under pressure Manchester City ace Raheem Sterling was set to be dropped for Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek was earmarked to replace injured midfielder Dele Alli.

Holland was so embarrassed at the gaffe he apologised to the squad, right back Kyle Walker said.

"It was just before training, just before we went out and did our warm up," Walker said.

"He gave his apologies and said it was the first time he had messed up in 20 years which we had a bit of a laugh about …

"It was a bit of banter, we move on and are looking forward to the game now. We have knocked it on the head."

Southgate also stressed it was "just a squad list" and it "didn't bother me in the slightest" before striking a nerve with several journalists by suggesting they consider withholding sensitive information in future.

"Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it's a disadvantage to us," Southgate said.

"So of course our media has to decide if they want to help the team or not."

"It's not going to help us because all the rest of the world has now seen that team," added Walker.

The response to the England camp's stance was clear-cut.

Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas agreed, telling the BBC the teamsheet was fair game.

"(The media's) job is to report the news, as simple as that," he said. "I do to an extent get where they (the England camp) are trying to come from but I do think it is slightly naive not to think that in today's social media world things like that are not going to get out anyway. Whether it is the local press that is there, our own British press or international press - someone is going to get it out."

But another former English international, Danny Murphy, said the media couldn't have it both ways if it wanted to be given special access to players.

"Some of the press guys want the best of both," Murphy said. "They want to be playing darts and bowling with the lads and getting on and having banter with them but as soon as there is problem they will jump on you and hammer you.

"Thankfully it was not a big deal because it was just 23 names on a piece of paper."

There were plenty of fans who believed the media overstepped too.

England won its opening game of the tournament 2-1 against Tunisia and can lock in a spot in the round of 16 by defeating Panama.

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