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Terry Butcher talks exclusively to PlayOJO about the England EURO 2021 squad

Interview With Terry Butcher

England and 90’s legend Terry Butcher talks to PlayOJO exclusively, sharing his thoughts on the current squad, pressure on playing for England and views around who he tips to win. 

During his playing career as a defender, Butcher captained the England national team, winning 77 caps in a ten-year international career that featured three World Cups and four Euros, reaching the semi-finals with England in 1990. Fair online Casino and Bingo site, PlayOJO spoke exclusively with one of the most iconic England legends on his views on the current squad and pressure of playing for England. 


What do you think of the current squad?

I’ve looked at the squad, it’s good in many respects but there’s people like Ben White that I was originally surprised to see in the squad but he really impressed me on Sunday. There are some quality players left out for sure but it only indicates that there’s some real quality players left in. It’s a great mix of youth and experience in my opinion.  


How important is versatility in tournament football?

It’s very important, the more success you get, you have more games and you don’t get a lot of time for recovery in European competitions. You have to have players in the squad that have an effect on the game – not just on the pitch itself, but they need to merit their inclusion. Gareth’s got a great spirit within the team, the coaches are excellent. Everything is very good and geared towards to success. The older players like to be made a fuss of and enjoy the massages. It’s a lot easier than it used to be with the sports science and the medical science. The younger players in particular will thrive on that, as will the older players, they like to enjoy themselves too. Players fit in seamlessly, there’s no worries or anxieties it’s like a club side, which is what you want as a manager.  

The key thing with younger players of today is their brains are like sponges, they are keen to learn and can take a lot of information on board, from the new science that’s available to advice from the older players.  

Ben White has been called up to replace Trent Alexander in the squad? Do you think he was the right choice?  
I think he’s a good choice, definitely one for the future. He really impressed me on Sunday when he played against Romania, he looks comfortable on the ball. He’s had a good season this season so he’ll be full of confidence. I like him, I think he’ll be a great addition to the back four.  

Aaron Ramdsale, Ollie Watkins and Ben Godfrey have all been sent home. Do you think they deserved a place in the squad?  
No I think there’s great competition for those places. The only person I would like to have seen is Ward-Prowse. In my opinion he’s unlucky not to have gone especially considering England only have a few midfield players compared to defenders – he should have got a place in the squad.  

Senior players like Jesse Lingard have been left out of the squad. Are you surprised by this?  
Yes I am surprised. I feel his disappointment, he’s had a very good end to the season and he deserved a place but he plays in an area where there’s fantastic players and competition and Gareth had tough choices to make. We’re blessed with a very good attacking force, it’s the best part of the team so he’s unlucky with that.  

How much of an impact does Harry Maguire’s fitness have on the formation of the team going forward in the EUROS?  
Well I think it’s difficult, in 2002 and 2004 when England had problem with injuries with Beckham and Rooney it certainly did effect the squad but you have to approach the games as if they’re not available unless they’re bang on 100% and see how they get on in training. Henderson and Maguire are still in the squad even with their injuries due to their experience – it’s difficult to not have them and if they’re fit on and on form in training Gareth will play them but he knows what he’s doing, he won’t risk playing them unless they’re 100%.  

What changes do you think Gareth needs to make based on Sunday’s friendly against Romania?  
Well it will certainly be a different team that plays against Croatia. Ben White and Jack Grealish certainly impressed Gareth in the friendly on Sunday. For me Grealish has to be in the starting team, he’s reminds me of Gazza, they have very similar styles in terms of movement, control and vision. He’s very different to what we’ve seen and for me he’s the player that stands out in the squad.   

Do you think Gareth has what it takes to win the Euros?  
Most definitely – I think he’s an excellent manager, he’s very good tactically and he’s gone into the competition very much united with the team. He knows the players, the players have a lot of respect for him. We’ve gone into the competition very strong in confidence and I believe we can go all the way.   

Is it worth the risk playing Jordan Henderson given that he’s not fully match fit? What’s your views on this?  
Well Gareth can see very close at hand what the players are like. He’ll know if Jordan is up to speed, same as Maguire. It’s  a shame as they were the heroes of 2018 but he knows what he’s doing, he won’t take any unnecessary risks and play them if they’re not 100%.   

The players were bood once again by their own fans when taking the knee on Sunday. How do you think this effects team morale and do you think it should stop?  
I think if anything it’s united the team even more because everybody is solid in their support with each other. I can’t see the argument about diluting, how can you ever dilute racism!? If they decide to do it , then they continue to do it and that’s it for me, there is no argument.  

Alexander-Arnold has shone for Liverpool in recent months but he struggled at the start of the season. He’d probably get into most top teams in the world so how was he picked as fourth choice for England? 
I think Liverpool have picked up good form, he’s a player in form at the moment but I’ve found in my career when I’ve won a championship you think next season, great I can’t wait to play, but sometimes you don’t hit the heights that you’ve done before. I like him, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s got great vision and he’s a quality player.  

Alexander – Arnold is now injured for the Euros but do you see Alexander-Arnold as a right-back long term or do you agree with suggestions he could move into midfield later in his career?  
He could play midfield but full-backs have good engines. I’m not saying centre-backs don’t have good engines but they have to read the game very well, mentally they have to be much sharper. I could actually see him being a centre-back later in his career.  

We’re well stocked at right-back, midfield and upfront but centre-backs and left-backs we’re not as strong on.  

Do you think Gareth will stick to the starting 11 he had in his mind or will that change now based on the last few months? 
(Laughs) Don’t believe everything a manager says I tell you. I think that Gareth is confident he had a rough idea of what he’d like to do and who he’d like to play – he’s probably had to skip out a few of those names and add one or two more in due to injuries but that’s what managers do, they try and give people the impression they are very confident and they know what they’re doing but sometimes they’re not too sure. It’s a bit like the swan on the pond, it looks calm on the surface.  

Is it harsh that Patrick Bamford has missed out?  
Yeah I think it’s harsh but there’s always going to be players like that – there’s some great players that have missed out, Hudson-Odoi and Maddison. It’s not nice to see players not make it but it’s good to see quality players in the squad.  They’re horrible calls to make to say you’re not in the squad but it’s part of the job and Gareth is like that, he’s fair, he’s diligent and he’s very honest with people.  

Should someone like Joe Willock have been considered due to his form (6 goals in 6 games) or is it just too little too late? 
He’s pretty young, he’s done ever so well but it’s a major step up when it comes to England. It’s the level of training – there’s a big jump from a 21-year-old in the Premier League to international football. I think Gareth would have looked at it and said he’s worth looking at but maybe for next season. 

Jordan Pickford has World Cup experience but is more prone to errors than Dean Henderson. Who should be first choice in goal in your eyes? 
Well Pickford’s first choice. He’s got 30 caps already, he’s by far the most experienced of our keepers but for me his concentration levels have got to be higher. His decision making has got to be better, but I think he’s got a point to prove, he wants to get back to the form he showed in Russia and get back to the high standards he set.  

My real worry with England is the system. Do you have a back three or back four? I would prefer him to go with a back four as it suits the players further up. I don’t see a necessity to play a three when other international teams play with one up front, I think we’re losing a man up there. I think it puts pressure on the midfield and the back three. I think Gareth needs to make a decision; I think he’ll go with a back three but I’m not too sure.  

Southgate has a very good dilemma – who plays up top with Kane? 
Well I think Foden on the right and Sterling on the left – for me that front three picks itself. It’s very strong. You’ve got a very high level of standard up front – everyone is going to have to pull out the stops to get in the team. It’s a real message for England – justify yourselves this year. There’s a massive amount of pressure on the squad this year, pressure to get in the squad, pressure to get into the final. We’re looking at getting into the final, we’ve never got that far and we as fans are looking at justification.  

We can’t talk about Kane without mentioning him wanting to leave Spurs 
(Terry laughs) I got into a bit of trouble many years ago with a top manager, I was asked what I thought about someone leaving and I said I think he should go and get first-team football elsewhere, rather than being on the edge and coming on. The manager of the club phoned me up asking me what I was doing trying to incite my player to leave whilst he’s under contract with me for another three years. So therefore I’ve never advised a player to do that because it’s not the right thing for me to decide on – you have to let the player and the club decide. He’s the perfect striker in many aspects, he’s got one of the best minds in football that I’ve seen for a long time so he’s got to do what he feels right. Yes he wants to win things but he could be King of the Lane.  

What do you make of Kane’s decision to go public with his intentions? 
Gareth has said that today, they don’t want to talk about transfers, it’s more important to think about what’s going to happen in the European Championships. A similar situation happened to me before I went to Mexico in 86 and I was told before that I was going to leave Ipswich. But I made the decision I wouldn’t talk to anyone before the World Cup and until the tournament was over. Kane has a sharp mind and I’m sure he will put it to the back of his mind to focus on the Euros.  

You quite literally gave your blood, sweat and tears to England back in the ‘90s, Do you think the players have the same passion and fight in todays game?  
Well it has evolved, you have to be so careful with injuries now. We were very different in those days, if you had a knock you’d carry on, it was a very old school thought process. I wanted to show people how tough I was. I don’t think that’s the case now, footballers are very much geared to fitness. They want to keep playing but they want to keep playing to their full fitness and the prudent thing to do is come off. They’re like racehorses where they’re a product, they cost a lot of money, their value is very high and you don’t want to risk a serious injury.  


There are very good protocols put in place now for head injuries in particular that were never there before and the sports science was never there either. If it had been there when I played in Sweden in 89 I would have been instantly off. (Terry laughs) The amount of people I’ve had come up to me showing me pictures of them in an England shirt with a bandage on their head recreating my Sweden 89 look. It’s funny because I had years in the game with hundreds of appearances for England throughout my career and I’m best remembered as a fancy dress outfit.  

That iconic photo of you covered in blood is one of the most famous England pics of all time. How did it feel for you at the time?  
That era was about bloody heroes – that’s just what you did in those days, it was all part of the game. You knew you had concussion when you fell over or staggered about, you didn’t actually know the damage that could be caused so therefore you just got on with it. The money you got was nothing like today, players got appearance money and bonuses were a big thing in those days so you needed to play with injuries or without.  


Is it fair that a player who doesn’t go down under the slightest touch in the box doesn’t win a penalty – when a player who dives from the same sort of touch does? 
I’m of the opinion that every player dives and nobody should have any qualms with that. 30 or 40 years ago it went against the spirit of the game but it’s part of today’s game. You can call it a disease or whatever you want to call it but any team would happy if their player dives and scores a penalty.  


England are playing Scotland in the first game, how do you feel about this being an ex-Rangers
player?

I’m looking forward to it very much – there’s a great history between the two countries and if you look at the current situation with both Governments there’s a bit of friction as well so I’m sure there will be a lot of interest in the fixture.

As an Englishman you don’t want Scotland to win at any point, you’ve got to beat them. It’s probably one of the greatest fixtures in history you’ll ever play in. I would like Scotland to do well, I have a bit of a soft spot for them but not at the expense of England, I’m 100% England.


Do you think it’s fair to have VAR in the Euros but not have it in qualifying or does it not make
a difference?

As a player I don’t think it matters, I think you just go out to play. You wouldn’t try anything different if there wasn’t VAR to normally playing with VAR and vice versa. I think that you’ve still got to try and score goals, you’ve still got to be cute and try and get in behind, put the ball in the net and then see what happens after that.

I don’t think that will make any difference at all in fairness. It’s what VAR was trying to do, it’s trying to be fair so I don’t have a problem with that. VAR can be helpful but in other cases it can make mistakes but then referees can be helpful and referees can make mistakes as well so nothing’s changed in that situation.


What are your thoughts on VAR? Do you think it’s been a good thing?

No there are a lot of issues, I don’t think it’s been 100% – there are situations where players are offside but it’s very, very marginal and I don’t think the VAR is on the side of anybody, you could be millimeters offside. I think if you’re that minutely offside you should be onside.

If you’re looking at the spirit of the game, if you’ve made a good run, got a good ball and finish then I think you deserve the goal. I’m not a big fan of it but I think that if we can work it out and make it better then it can help like it does with rugby and cricket.


There’s a still a problem with racism in football today. How much progress has there been in the
last 30 years, since you played?

I don’t think there’s been a lot of progress to be honest – I still think it’s rife in the game. There’s a lot that goes unreported. I cannot believe that people go to games and want to racially abuse people but it still happens.

I don’t think we’re the worst country when it comes to racial abuse but it doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels and say we’re not the worst so we won’t do anything about it. We’ve got to make sure we’re the best and I think there’s a lot of work to be done. They need to be taking bigger steps to make change.


Do you think the clubs and the FA could be doing better to eradicate racism in football?

I think everybody could be doing more. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to be a gradual process but I think everybody has to sing from the same hymn sheet and make sure that anyone that does offend is punished severely and the clubs are punished severely. You have got to stamp it out – it seems to have got worse than it was before and as I said previously there’s a lot under the surface that doesn’t get reported.


How would you feel playing in the Euros with a limited number of fans? Do you think it will make
a difference to the players?

I think it will be nice for the players to be playing in stadiums with a good number of fans when they have had such a limited number or no fans for so long. When you play it doesn’t bother you if you’re playing in front of 100,000 fans or no one, it’s about what you do on the pitch and how you approach that. The fans shouldn’t have any influence on you and if they do you’re not concentrating enough.


What was your most challenging game/time in your career?

I found every game challenging. Playing for England was massively challenging as it was a different level to playing in the Premier League. I used to come back from England training and feel physically and mentally knackered.

When you won a game it was a huge relief and when you lost it felt like the end of your world. I loved playing, I miss it mentally and being in that zone of concentration, it’s a wonderful place to be.


Who was the best player you played against?

Maradona would be the best player I’ve played against. He was an incredible talent, an incredible player. On the football pitch you couldn’t get close to him, he was very clever, very aloof and kept the ball away from you. He was top class, he really was.


Can you give us any funny stories from the ‘90s? What was it like playing with Gazza and Lineker?

Gazza was the biggest character, he used to go on the pitch to shoot at goal before kick-off with Chrissy Waddle and there was one time I always remember. The Spurs mascot came out and he went in goal, Gazza was a maestro with the ball and he took a penalty and the mascot saved it.

The crowd was starting to come in before the game and everyone was cheering which obviously got Gazza ready to go again. He then pelted the ball which hit the cockerel right in the cockerels (laughs) then he shot again and hit him right on the head and muttered “I told you don’t ever save one of my shots.” That was a typical Gazza moment, he was a great player to play with.


Who are you backing to win the Euros?

I think we’re in with a good chance. There’s a hunger there to complete the job this time and go the extra step. Having got to a World Cup semi-final has been great for experience, but it will be even better experience to get to the final. We have one of the best chances we’ve had for a long time.

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