England boss Gareth Southgate insists there is “no drama” between his squad and the media around the publication of what appeared to be a team sheet showing tactics for Sunday’s game with Panama.
Pictures were published of a piece of paper showing what looked to be a line-up and denoting possible changes to the team that beat Tunisia in last week’s World Cup opener.
Southgate and Kyle Walker initially questioned the decision to release the photos due to the risk of handing their opponents a possible advantage ahead of the Group G clash in Nizhny Novgorod.
A backlash from some supporters on social media added to the furore, threatening to undermine an increasingly positive relationship between the England squad and reporters, which has even seen darts competitions take place at the team base in Repino.
However, Southgate has now clarified that he does not expect the English press to operate as fans would during the tournament and said the picture actually only showed plans for that day’s training session.
“I totally understand the media have a role to report the news,” he explained. “My only observation, which I probably haven’t worded properly, is it’s definitely an advantage if you know the tactics of the other team.
“I don’t expect the media to be supporters of us in terms of the way they work. I know they want us to do well; that’s been clear throughout the tournament.
— England (@England) June 23, 2018
“There’s no drama for me about it. The picture the other day wasn’t even the team. It was just a front sheet and the front sheet is always the runners and riders for training. I’m totally relaxed, I understand a few of the guys have had a bit of a bashing on social media so I apologise for that, I’ve experienced it myself!
“We haven’t been open [with the media] because we expected something in return. The whole environment has been really positive. We all know everyone is away for weeks – all of us, players, staff, journalists, it’s a difficult environment to be in. The guys have to find stories, produce content, we have to get results, but it’s a bit like when you go on holiday with your family – after you’ve been away a while, you’re a bit sick of some people and less so of others. It would be a fascinating social study for all of us to compare notes at the end.”
England can qualify for the last 16 if they beat Panama, who must claim at least a draw to have any chance of going through, having lost 3-0 to Belgium in their opening match.
Southgate, though, is not prepared to underestimate a team who caused a shock by qualifying for the finals in Russia ahead of the United States.
“We’ve done a lot of due diligence on Panama over the last few months, so we don’t expect too many surprises in terms of how they play,” he said.
“They’re an incredibly proud country. Their route to qualification was remarkable, really. It’s an incredible achievement and they’ll be wounded by what happened the other night and will want to respond and make it a tough game for us.”
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