On Bellingham, Henderson And England
Jude Bellingham has had a sensational start to his Real Madrid career and has established himself as the main man there at the tender age of twenty. Have you ever seen a player look so well-rounded and mature, with such ability at such a young age?
I have never seen a player demonstrate the ability and the mentality that Jude Bellingham has at such a young age. A big part of that must be attributed to his parents and the role that they’ve had in raising the young man.
I thought it was madness when Birmingham City retired his shirt. As a Villa fan, I was thinking ‘Birmingham don’t have any trophies, but they’re retiring the shirts of sixteen-year-old kids. Whatever next (laughs).’ I started to take notice of him at that point because that is something that just doesn’t happen (retiring a shirt at that age).
He went to Dortmund and did really well, but Real Madrid is a different level entirely. In a short time, the Spanish papers have already started calling him “The Master”. He will have a dip at some stage in his career, that is only natural especially for a player that is so young, but he has a long way to fall if and when that happens.
I’m just delighted that he is English. With the European Championships and the World Cup on the horizon, which culturally won’t be too different to what he’s used to, then looking further ahead to a European Championship on home soil (2028) where he will be 25, everything is looking tailor-made for him to dominate these tournaments and be the best player in the world in his position.
It’s been several years since we’ve had a midfielder who can do everything and that is what Bellingham is progressing towards. There are areas of his game that can be improved, but he is very good at everything. If he can develop his game further, and he will, then he will go and will become a world-class talent for years to come. He will be spoken of in the same breath as players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Gascoigne, but he has the ability and the potential to surpass them.
His ability at his age is unbelievable. He doesn’t suffer any fools in any dressing rooms and is quite happy to say what he thinks. He has the head of a thirty-year-old player on his young shoulders. That’s really important. He won’t have anyone at Real Madrid like a Luka Modric or a Toni Kroos telling him how to suck eggs. He’ll respect their opinions, but he’ll do things his own way.
I’d be disappointed when the 2028 European Championships come around and a twenty-five year old Bellingham doesn’t captain England to lifting the trophy. I would be absolutely stunned if Jude wasn’t wearing the armband at that point.
By the time that tournament comes around, he could have three hundred games under his belt and twenty trophies in his locker. That is scary to think about.
Bellingham can surpass greats like Gazza
Bellingham progress shows that the FA was right to invest in St George’s Park
Bellingham’s development is not only brilliant for Midlands football, but also demonstrates that the English system with St George’s Park at its heart is working. The whole aim of St. George’s Park was to send players and coaches to different places around the world if they couldn’t get gigs in England or, if they were good enough, to demonstrate that they had the skillset and technical ability to go and play for a club like Real Madrid.
If there was a Spanish or a French kid doing what Bellingham is at his age, single-handedly winning games for a club the size of Real Madrid, we would say this is proof that those countries develop players better than we do.
The FA and everyone involved in the development of football in England should be proud of what Bellingham is doing. We should give ourselves a pat on the back for having the insight, intelligence, and courage to build St. George’s Park and for having in place an academy structure that is starting to pay us back.
Jude is the poster boy for the ambition of St. George’s Park.
Jordan Henderson was booed in the recent England friendly. What is your reaction to that, and do you think Henderson can expect further jeers when he wears the England shirt?
I think the reaction to Jordan Henderson, getting booed by the fans is quite simple to understand.
At first, when the Saudi’s got involved with Newcastle and then what we saw this summer (the state-funded purchases of big players to the league), there was a negative reaction. There was a reaction because of what has happened in the country or because of what has happened under the regime; Jamal Khashoggi for instance.
Geo-politically, there isn’t a country on earth that is all good and there isn’t one that is all bad. Some are a lot worse than others. Sadly, this is the way of the world.
I follow a lot of Liverpool accounts on social media. I could sense that there was a lot of anger and disappointment among their supporters when Jordan Henderson decided to move to Saudi Arabia. I think most fans thought he was going there for one reason (money).
The problem with Henderson, is that he has spoken about inclusion and diversity, something that we all strive towards as humans. He came out and spoke publicly on behalf of the LGBTQ+ communities and was clear on that.
Henderson is held to a higher standard than other players that have joined the Saudi Pro League because he spoke passionately about rainbow laces and advocated for a community. Football fans are savvy. A lot of England fans have been demonised for supporting their country at World Cup’s around the world: we’ve all seen the media narrative about not wanting to go to Brazil because of people attacking you from the favelas, or South Africa because of the people in the townships. I was at all of them and others, and there were no problems.
The problem with Henderson is that some of the England fans were harangued for attending the tournament in Qatar. They were criticised for attending and supporting the Qatari regime by being there, while Jordan Henderson was advocating for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity in football, now that he has gone to Saudi Arabia he isn’t speaking about the issues that are at hand in Saudi society.
I don’t think the fans are being anti-Jordan Henderson. I don’t think that it is anti-Saudi. He’s being criticised because he is a player that has said one thing and done another. It’s that simple.
I’m certain that the fans that booed him wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t say anything about those issues in the first place and then joined a team in Saudi Arabia. Henderson went out of his way to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community and now he’s in Saudi earning a huge amount of money. They believe that he is a hypocrite, and they are entitled to boo him if they want to.
Henderson booed by England fans
How confident do you feel about England’s chances at the Euros this summer?
I feel really confident about England’s chances at the Euros. We played at a World Cup over there in 2006, so the fans will travel there in numbers. The fans will arrive at the tournament from all over Europe – we’re a very clever fanbase when it comes to finding routes to tournaments.
The culture in Germany isn’t that different to England. The players will enjoy playing over there and players like Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden will be coming into the tournament having played a season at the very highest level in the game.
There are some players that are coming towards the end of their England tenure, guys like Jordan Henderson. They will be invaluable in terms of providing that experience and helping the younger players in the squad.
I think we have to be looking at reaching the semi-final stages. That has to be the benchmark and I will be really disappointed if we don’t get that far. The European Championships is tougher than a World Cup with quality opposition throughout. That can help get you battle-hardened for when you finish your group.
I think with the players that we have, if we can get on a good run, then we should absolutely be aiming to win it. There isn’t a football fan in the world who wouldn’t look at the players we have and not be envious. The only thing that could stop us from winning it is the glass ceiling that this group hasn’t broken yet and that is being the first men’s team to win an international tournament since 1966.
On Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate has done more to change the culture around the England team than anyone else. I think that when he walks away from the England team, he will be someone that is looked back on in the same regard as Sir Alf Ramsey.
Hopefully, he will be able to win something like Alf, but even if he doesn’t, the way that he has transformed the culture has been revolutionary and everybody that has coached at St. George’s Park and the linear pathways across the age groups, he has played a massive role in that.
England had a stigma around them of grey suits and hiding players at tournaments because we didn’t want them to get into trouble. The England team used to be a place of cliques, anxiety, and fear. Gareth has completely turned that on its head.
Player’s love joining up with the squad now – we’ve all seen the pictures of players having a great time, that’s deliberate. Gareth and I were the same age in England camps where the focus was very much on performing for Queen and country.
It was serious. As players in that period, we couldn’t put a foot out of place. We used to look at countries like Ireland with envy; the Irish players seemed to be enjoying themselves. We do that a lot better now.
Gareth Southgate is damned whatever he does. Some people may not like him. Some people may think that he isn’t getting the absolute maximum out of these England players.
There have been some poor performances and there have been some excellent performances under Gareth’s tenure.
Whatever happens, I don’t think that he will be managing England at the next European Championships. I think there will be an opportunity for someone else at that stage.
Premier League Predictions
Which individuals stood out for you for the right reasons?
Mo Salah has been one of the better players from the opening eight games of the season. Salah continues to go from strength to strength. He had a wobble last season, and people suggested that was because he had just signed a very lucrative new deal with Liverpool. Some suggested that he was resting on his laurels after penning a contract worth 300 or 400 grand a week and wasn’t as effective as he used to be. He has been sensational so far and it looks like that will continue.
Bukayo Saka has picked up where he left off from last season at Arsenal last year. It’s very difficult for some young players that break onto the scene to handle the glare of the spotlight. After what happened with him when he missed the penalty in the final of the European Championship, a lot of players would have sunken without a trace. Saka didn’t. He came back fitter, stronger and sharper. He had his best season for Arsenal last year in terms of goals and assists and he has started this season on a similar trajectory.
James Maddison at Tottenham has impressed me. He has started the season brilliantly. Before his move, I questioned whether he had the ability to step up and deliver on a consistent basis. We all know that Maddison talks a good game, he’s very confident. I think if he was chocolate, Maddison would eat himself! But, he is absolutely doing it with his performances for Tottenham this season.
You can talk the talk if you walk the walk, and he is. I’m a massive advocate of him playing in a proper number ten role where he gets the freedom and the opportunity to be able to do what he’s good at: creating chances for his team. He’s a big part of the reason why Tottenham are sat at the top of the Premier League table.
Maddison has impressed Collymore
Which individuals stood out for you for the wrong reasons?
I could pick eleven players that I’ve been underwhelmed with, and they all play for Manchester United. Marcus Rashford hasn’t been able to respond in the way that Saka has after missing that penalty – he doesn’t look he has the same resilience. He had a good season last year, but this year he has fallen off a cliff again.
We all know about the work he does away from the pitch, and we applaud him for that. Some of the causes he has campaigned for and lent his voice towards have been amazing. He’s an MBE and, if you took away football, Marcus is a very well-respected figure in his own right.
If you’re a footballer, you’re paid for and judged on what you do on the pitch. Marcus is either great or average. There doesn’t seem to be any Harry Kane levels of boring consistency – he isn’t a player that will get you fifteen or twenty goals every season.
Last season, he was on fire. People were convinced that he was starting to show his true potential. I worry that Marcus will never be the player that football fans hoped he would become. He could say that he’s happy with his achievements – but when I judge England players, because I’m such a massive England fan who goes to games and waves my flag, maybe I judge players like Marcus a bit too harshly.
If you look at players like Harry Kane or Erling Haaland, we hoped that Marcus was going to be in that elite-level conversation, and he isn’t.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for Jadon Sancho at Manchester United. By the looks of how things are going for him, it doesn’t appear like he will get an opportunity.
Apparently, he accused people at Dortmund of picking on him as well. I’m worried that he looks like a player that can’t deal with the pressure to perform when it matters. We all go through things like that, I certainly have had trouble with handling the pressure when I was a player, so I’m not judging Jadon without context.
Another one would have to be Andre Onana. He came in as being this goalkeeper that was going to transform the way that Manchester United played. He’s a very athletic guy, who is obviously good with the ball at his feet. He is good at collecting corners, but his performances have been littered with errors and he has been really poor.
It's sad that the three players that I’m incredibly disappointed with all come from Manchester United.
On Premier League Champions And Top 4
I think the title will be decided between Manchester City and Liverpool. City started last season in worse shape than they have started this one and still managed to win the title at a canter.
Manchester City have to be favourites. There are questions about City’s desire after winning the treble last season, but I think those are misplaced. They’ve been bundled out of the League Cup already, which should sharpen their focus. Pep may well say the most important thing for me is the Premier League title because no team has ever won four titles in a row.
Arsenal will be in the top four. I have my doubts about Newcastle retaining their position in the top four, I think it will be difficult for them. I can’t see Tottenham lasting the distance.
I have a feeling that Manchester United could sneak in there. The players are under pressure to perform in every game and at clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool they have a habit of dragging themselves over the line.
A quick word on Scotland who qualified for the European Championships last night with two games to spare. How impressive have they been in qualifying and how much credit do you think Steve Clarke deserves?
I think it’s brilliant that Scotland qualified for the European Championships with two games to spare.
Steve Clarke has been in the English coaching system. He spent a long time in the Chelsea set-up when they were really successful and had a hand in a lot of their age groups. Until recently, Chelsea was the best in Europe in terms of their academy structure.
Clarke has that coaching grounding. Brendan Rodgers and Steve Cooper are the same. He’s had the benefit of the English coaching system.
When he got the job, I think everyone was a bit underwhelmed. Scottish fans are like English fans in terms of our sense of expectation because we’re the two oldest footballing nations in the world. Clarke went in and got to grips with everything quickly. He is working with a lot of players that have come through the English development system; players that have been coached really well from a young age. These are the guys that aren’t just responding to Braveheart and all the tribalism that goes with wearing the jersey, these are players that have been properly coached.
This is the best group that Scotland have had since the seventies with the likes of Sounness and Dalgleish. Scotland have been exceptional in their qualifying, playing on the front foot. Clarke has managed to get Scott McTominay playing in a way that he hasn’t been allowed to do at Manchester United. Andy Roberston is a big player for them and, tactically, they are more flexible.
I think the Scottish system is now starting to produce really exciting young players. They don’t have the same budget as English football, but what they do have, they are making the most of and have started looking at academies and improving coaching.
I’m delighted for them. All of the home nations have now qualified for tournaments within the last twelve years, and, with the expansion (of those tournaments) that looks likely to continue at a greater rate.
It would be great to play them in an important game at the tournament. It would be a dream come true for me to watch England play Scotland in a knockout game at the European Championships, as long as we beat them!
Do you think that this Liverpool team can mount a serious title challenge this season?
Liverpool will challenge for the title this season. The big question at the start of the season was on Liverpool’s midfield. I look at the additions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, complimented with the options they already have there in Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who can play that hybrid role, and like what I see.
Following the exits of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, two pillars that Liverpool’s recent success has been built on, there were questions about whether Liverpool’s new-look midfield would succeed. That question has been answered in the opening eight games of the season.
Liverpool have started the season very well. They lost to Spurs in controversial circumstances, but other than that they have performed well.
Szoboszlai has settled into life at Liverpool incredibly quickly. What a player he looks! He is the type of player that thrives off the responsibility for playing for club and country.
Mac Allister hasn’t set the fires like he did at Brighton yet. Trent will continue to get better and better. Because he’s been in the first team for such a long time, people forget how young he is. Harvey Elliot looks like he is improving with every game.
Liverpool are nicely positioned in the table without playing the kind of football we know this team is capable of. They will get better as the season progresses.
Salah and Nunez are starting to develop an understanding on the pitch. They are creating chances for fun at the moment and will continue to do so. All of Liverpool’s attackers are chipping in with goals – they have brilliant firepower.
I think whoever finishes above Liverpool will finish the season as champions. I think Liverpool will either win it or finish second.
Salah and Nunez forming an understanding
I read some comments from VvD complaining about the number of games that players are averaging a season. What are your thoughts on the comments? Is VvD being a bit of a cry baby? Should he just get on with it?
Player welfare is an issue that I’ve spoken about with Pep Guardiola a couple of seasons ago. It’s an ongoing debate. If we want players to be playing at their best level from the middle of August until the end of May, then that is the window that clubs should play their games.
Clubs should give their players a complete break in June and July, with the exception of major international tournaments. That would mean that clubs wouldn’t participate in lucrative pre-season tours around the world and focus on training camps closer to home. They should ban these huge commercial tournaments where American or Australian or Thai fans get to see half fit players playing on mediocre pitches.
If we can go back to a world where players are given eight weeks where they don’t have to play, that would help. FIFA should consider enforcing a limit on the number of club and international games a player can take part in over the course of a year.
If a player was limited to a total of sixty games a season, forty-eight for club and twelve for international football, it would be interesting to see how mangers like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola would react to that system. That system would ensure that all players have a cap on the amount of games that they can take part in and everyone would be taken care of. That’s a common-sense solution.
These clubs can’t have it both ways. They can’t participate in global pre-seasons tours hopping from Japan to America and complain about player welfare. I’m tired of the people paying lip service to the issue – we need to find a proper solution.
On Aston Villa
Ollie Watkins said during the international break that he goes a bit under the radar and isn’t spoken enough of in terms of being a top striker – do you think he deserves more respect?
Since Unai Emery came into Aston Villa, Watkins is only behind Haaland and Kane in terms of goals scored. He has got two hattricks already this season…and being a Villa fan and with my family being Villa fans, I know quite a lot about him.
I think that Watkins has always been a very good finisher. The problem he had was consistency and perhaps he lacked a little bit of confidence at times. He has fifty goals for Villa in 120 appearances, which is a decent return.
I don’t think that Ollie has been disrespected by the football industry. He is someone that likes to let his football do the business rather than scream and shout about themselves on social media. He is looking very sharp. He needs to keep doing what he is doing for Aston Villa.
Ollie Watkins can become an England regular
I think this is a great period in time for English strikers to put themselves in the frame for a place in the national team. If you’re a striker that is scoring ten or fifteen goals a season, you’re getting in that squad. When I played, the competition between the likes of Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Dion Dublin, Nick Barmby and myself, where we all were scoring twenty goals a season… to get into a squad was so hard. The bar was so high.
I had to score fifty goals in sixty-eight games to get into my first England squad when I was playing for Forest. These days, if you’re Dominic Calvert-Lewin, you can be stuck in without doing anything other than being fit!
Ironically, this is one of the best England squads that we’ve ever had but one of the poorest groups of out-and-out strikers that we’ve ever had. You’ve got Harry Kane and then the level drops off considerably. If Watkins can find some form until the end of the season, in a very progressive Aston Villa team that create a lot of chances, then he can cement himself in the squad for years.
He could also have the opportunity to play in some really big games at an international tournament, especially if England have already qualified after two matches and Southgate rotates. Watkins could then play himself into getting more minutes. I honestly believe that there has never been a better time to be an England striker. If you get ten goals, you’re going to Germany.
The opportunity for Watkins to have a big role at the European Championships is there for him to grab. He could be a vital member of the squad for the next two tournaments. I hope that is something that he can grasp.
Watkins could play a vital role for England
After a tricky start to the season, Villa are flying. How far do you think they can go this season? What do you think the minimum objective should be for the club this season?
I think Aston Villa should be looking around finishing in the sixth and seventh spot, which is pretty much where we were last season. I don’t think our squad is ready to compete for a place in the Champions League, especially if you look at some of the performances in the Europa Conference League where we have rotated the squad and delivered some poor performances.
In ten days, we’ve got AZ Alkmaar. I’ll be going to that game with my daughter and I’m looking forward to it. If Villa keep their first eleven and thirteen players fit, then I think we will be competitive and could possibly look at finishing as high as fifth. I do worry about injuries though – I don’t think we have the squad depth. If we can’t manage the balance between the Premier League and the Europa League, then it could be a more disappointing season where we get kicked out of Europe fairly early and then plateau in the league.
It took West Ham a couple of years to get that balance right. Getting into the Europa league would be progress for this Villa team, and it would also open up the purse strings. The owners are ambitious and have backed Unai in the transfer market, so you would expect that to continue. Villa also generates a lot of income as one of the biggest clubs in the league.
Unai‘s pedigree at Europa League level is incomparable. If we can keep everyone fit and heathy, then we’ll have a good season.
How would you rate Moussa Diaby’s start to his Aston Villa career?
I think that Moussa Diaby has got off to a good start wearing the Villa shirt. His performances have been good without being amazing, so there’s room for improvement. He scored on his debut, and he has that ability to beat people and carry a ball over twenty-five yards. He will create and score goals in this Villa team.
It’s common for new signings to struggle with the pace of the Premier League in their first season. Sandro Tonali at Newcastle is going through that at the moment – he looked incredible on his debut. He joined from AC Milan for a massive amount of money, came in with Champions League experience, but after three or four games, he fell off a cliff. That doesn’t mean he’s a poor player – I think he’s a cracking player and he will be a very, very good signing for Newcastle – but the pace of the Premier League got him. The Premier League is unlike any other league to play in. It’s physically demanding which then affects you mentally.
I’m cautiously optimistic with Diaby. He’s quick. He has a very good engine, and his fitness is very good. Like a lot of signings that come with top billing, from the likes of Serie A or the Bundesliga, there is always a bit of risk in signing these players because of the leap in quality in the standard of competition. The Premier League is the most demanding league in the world.
He was a player that was courted by the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, who decided not to sign him, but their loss is Villa’s gain. He has the ability to play for any of the clubs in the top four.
I think there is a good comparison to make between Diaby and Tonali. They both have Champions League quality and they both have joined clubs who are delighted to have signed them.
On Manchester United
It looks like Sir Jim Ratcliffe is inching towards ratifying a 25% stake in the club. As part of the deal, he will control the football operations. What are the changes he needs to make to turn Manchester United into the force they once were / what would be the first things that you changed?
I think that Manchester United need to change everything from top to bottom regarding their football operations. They need to appoint an aggressive CEO that is a good communicator. I think that is an area where Richard Arnold has been found wanting.
I think the senior leadership on the football side needs to be completely overhauled. I always look at clubs like Brentford and Brighton as two fantastic examples of how to structure a football club. They have a clear vision in terms of recruitment, tactics and philosophy. There is a clear development pathway from their academies into their first teams. They have appointed the right people in the right roles. Everything is aligned and everyone knows their jobs.
I’ve spoken to Lee Dykes, Brentford’s Technical Director, he is a name that has been linked with Manchester United. He knows the leagues upside down and is a real straight talker. Matthew Benham the owner sets the tone and then you have the CEO. There are several levels of bureaucracy, but they are clear. Manchester United haven’t had that for years.
I think Jim Ratcliffe needs to come in and use some of his INEOS expertise, putting in place a structure with levels of accountability. You need all the levels within the structure of your club completely aligned. It won’t be an instant fix. I don’t think that he is going in there to blow transfer records and spend money for the sake of it. He’ll be looking at Brighton and thinking how did they recruit a player like Mitoma for £2,000,000 and now he is worth £40,000,000. What can we learn from them in terms of recruitment and is there anyone that I can poach.
Recruitment is different for Manchester United. Brighton and Brentford can fly under the radar in terms of player acquisitions and can do things that Manchester United can’t simply because of the size of the club.
Jim Ratcliffe has such vast experience in business and within a sporting environment in terms of sponsorships and team building. He will understand and know how successful organisations work. He will know what the benchmarks are and what key performance indicators will need to be put in place at Manchester United.
United’s set-up will look at finding that recruitment lead and a Football Director who can create a philosophy that runs throughout the entire club at all levels.
I think it will take around three or four years before United are successful again and are ready to win the Premier League title. The most important thing for Manchester United is to have someone at the football club who is a leader and a winner and that is what Jim Ratcliffe is. He is the most important Manchester United signing in over a decade.
Sheik Jassim would have come in and paid off all the debt. Let’s try and buy Mbappe, let’s try and buy superstars. It would have been a totally different way to running a football club. He would have just thrown money at everything, whereas Jim Ratcliffe will bring some organisation and order to Manchester United.
I know a lot of the younger fans may have preferred Jassim to come in and play fantasy football at United, but for me, in the long run, this will be much better for Manchester United and the English football pyramid.
All fans want their clubs to spend money, but I also think that we want our football clubs to run as proper sane and sensible competitive entities. United fans want to be competitive for a long time and that is the stability that I think Ratcliffe offers that Jassim doesn’t.
He is a Manchester United fan. He is from the area – that is quite unusual in this day and age in the Premier League. It will be nice to see what he brings to the party. His purchase in Manchester United gets a big thumbs up from me.
Jim Ratcliffe's getting closer
Michael Edwards has been linked with a recruitment role. He achieved wonderful things at Liverpool and is currently out of work…how do you think Liverpool fans would react if he went into the club?
I don’t think the Liverpool fans would care about Michael Edwards joining Manchester United in an executive role. It’s very different from a player swapping clubs and joining a rival. He also didn’t come out and say, “Liverpool’s my home, I’ll be here forever.”
As long as Liverpool have got someone that is very good at recruiting players, then they won’t be interested in where Edwards goes. It would be the same if it was the other way around and someone from United’s executive team joined Liverpool. Liverpool will think that they can recruit brilliant players without him. There isn’t one Svengali out there who has the Midas touch when it comes to player recruitment, there are several.
I think Michael Edwards would do very well finding another pair of players like Salah and Mane for the £30-40 million pounds. If he goes to Manchester United and signs a couple of players that were half as successful as those two, then he’ll be doing a good job at Manchester United.
Marcus Rashford looks like he’s playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders again. We’ve seen him go through slumps in form before, how do you think he can get out of this one?
I really don’t think that Marcus Rashford can get out of the slump that he’s in as long as he’s playing for Manchester United. When you play for Manchester United, one of the truly global clubs in the game, there is an intense pressure that players are constantly under.
No disrespect to the likes of Arsenal or Tottenham, but when you play for Manchester United, you’re scrutinised from Lagos to Delhi and everywhere in between. That’s something that you must deal with. I realised that when I joined Liverpool – you’re going to get criticised globally.
It might be that Marcus isn’t made from the same stuff as a guy like Haaland. Haaland is metronomic. He eats his liver and kidneys, wears his blue blocking sunglasses and is in bed at nine o’clock every evening. Rashford isn’t that guy and, sometimes, you have to say that there are players that aren’t as ruthless as they need to be to get to the very top of the game.
I think his involvement in campaigning, local and national issues, knocked him sideways. You look at him and think that he is a really nice guy. Unfortunately, in something as ruthless as professional football or even politics, nice guys don’t climb to the top of the ladder. I’m not knocking him for it or knocking him as an individual.
He has hot spells and cold spells like plenty of strikers. Robbie Fowler and Andy Cole were way more ruthless than I was. Dwight Yorke was a little bit more easy-going.
There are all types of personalities in football. It’s a game of different personalities and, perhaps Marcus isn’t that ruthless. The players that I played with who had ten or fifteen years at the top of the game, these guys would knock over their own granny if they thought it would help them reach the top quicker. I just don’t think that Marcus is that type of player.
We will have to enjoy him for what he is. In the football world, players are constantly compared against each other. There are always benchmarks in terms of what a good player should be achieving, whether that’s goals or assists or clean sheets. We shouldn’t judge everyone like that. Marcus Rashford will give the community in Manchester ten times more to what Erling Haaland will. You must take things in context.
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