Gareth Southgate knows all about costly penalty misses and the England manager says he is there to support Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka as they “work through” things.
The Three Lions are preparing for their first international matches since their memorable Euro 2020 run ended with a heartbreaking shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Wembley finale.
Rashford, Sancho and Saka all failed from the spot, leading to some sickening online racist abuse that was overpowered by love and affection in the immediate aftermath.
But the return to club action has brought about some cutting chants, with Leeds and Manchester City fans singing about how the Manchester United duo Rashford and Sancho let the country down.
When those songs were put to manager Southgate, who missed the key spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final, said: “I mean, I’m obviously in a good place to be able to help them with that because I experienced that myself.
“It wasn’t just at that game (between United and Leeds) that that happened. But I think generally supporters were saying ‘we know that actually isn’t the case’ and there’s been some fabulous receptions. I was at Brentford when Bukayo got an amazing reception.
“I think even some of the supporters that were singing those things were saying ‘we know it’s not the case but they’re our rivals, we’re into club football now and we’re going to try to put those players off their game’.
“I think there are different strands of that sort of response, really, and it’s something that the players are going to have to work through.
“But they can rationalise a little bit when it’s at their club and it’s a big opponent. Some of that is, I think, slightly different to what it might appear.”
Southgate is sure to check on the wellbeing of his players when they return to St George’s Park in the coming days in terms of mental fitness as much as physical.
The topic was brought into focus by England defender Tyrone Mings, who said his “mental health did plummet” before the opener against Croatia as he felt the majority of the country were doubting him.
“I saw the article and I think there’s also a balance,” Southgate said. “That’s why I like the phrase mental fitness as much as mental health.
“I think mental health people immediately think about the more clinical areas and I think sometimes there can be performance anxiety, which seems to be what Tyrone was referring to when he was talking about the build-up to that first game and the doubts that he felt perhaps externally as to whether he could cope.
“I think I sensed that in the lead in to that first game and I talked with him a few times that week.
“We were very confident that he could do that and he performed exceptionally well, so I’m sure he took a huge amount of confidence from the way he played in the tournament having not experienced European club football in the past or experienced tournament football at that sort of level of scrutiny.
“I thought he dealt exceptionally well with that. It’s something I will pick up with him again when we’re together just to clarify, but that seemed to be the area he was talking about.
“I think when we’re talking about mental health there are lots of different areas and different feelings that people experience along that spectrum.”
Whether Mings will be in the England squad is unclear after missing Aston Villa’s Premier League match against Brentford on Saturday.
Mason Greenwood will definitely not be there after the teenage Manchester United forward was surprisingly left out following discussions between Southgate, the player, his family and his club.
“Normally I don’t get involved in the (England) Under-21s but I think at this moment in time he’s beyond that,” the Three Lions boss added.
“I want to take a little bit more control of his development internationally.
“The dual nationality (suggestion) is a bit of a red herring. He 100 per cent wants to play for England and there is no suggestion there is anything else there.”