London (UK), 14 (PA Media / dpa / EP)
Midfielder Jude Bellingham has praised England manager Gareth Southgate for the “fantastic job” he has done in facilitating his adaptation to the national team, while also making sure he is “always thinking ‘how to help the team’ without giving up his role as ‘captain'”.
“When times are tough and things are ugly, I think that’s when you really see what leaders are made of,” Bellingham told PA Media, and he hasn’t been shy about captaining the England national team despite his 19-year-old age. “I’m always thinking about how I can help the team,” he repeated, “and if that means being a leader, then so be it.”
And the midfielder defended the role of older footballers, such as Harry Kane or Jordan Henderson, “willing to take the pressure off” the younger ones. “I wouldn’t say they protect us, but they certainly help us understand stress, know when to get in it and when to get out of it, and be rational,” he said.
“I think everyone in the team does a great job of making us feel comfortable when we go into the games. I benefit from the brains and skills of everyone in the team,” Bellingham added.
In addition, the young player appreciated Southgate’s “great work” for “facilitating” his entry into the Absolute National Team. He commented on English culture with The Three Lions: “In England they like to pressure people from the start. I think I’m starting to get that.”
“And I think I can handle it, but Gareth also understands he has to manage it as part of his job. I think he’s doing a great job with me and the other young players, you know, Bukayo (Saka), Phil (Foden), Marcus (Rashford), managing The expectations that surround us.”
In this process of adaptation, Bellingham understands that he cannot always be a rookie. “My place now in the team is really great, because I play most of the games and I feel like I have a positive influence,” concluded the player, who has made 24 appearances for England since making his debut. Debuted in November 2020 with a 17-year-old.