Gareth Southgate said the right things, as did most commentators but, let’s face it, Phil Foden’s England debut against Iceland on Saturday was just a little underwhelming.
Decent but not what we all expected. Mason Greenwood’s 15-minute cameo and first cap was okay but nothing sensational.
Now we possibly know why. Their minds were on other tactics, other formations, other plans for the weekend.
Still, at least their first taste of senior England action will be memorable.
Getting sent home in disgrace from your first trip takes some doing.
Not many can boast that claim to fame. Or infamy, rather.
Seriously, no-one demands young footballers be beacons of common sense and intelligence but this was award-winning stupidity.
This was the new golden generation outdoing some of the olden golden generations.
Never mind the trusty ‘girls in the room’ routine, this was the trusty ‘girls in the room’ routine with a Covid-19 twist. (And not, it seems, their original hotel rooms.)
At least when the likes of Kyle Walker and Jack Grealish got up to some protocol-busting antics, they did it away from England duty.
And this was not just breaking Covid-19 rules, this was breaking Gareth Southgate rules.
This was breaking the rules of the man who has been closely following their footballing lives since they were in their early teens.
Despite the Manchester City player’s precocious talent, Southgate had always been a touch reluctant to call up Foden and maybe this episode shows exactly why.
The England manager waited until Foden had turned 20 and had become a father, perhaps hoping maturity would have set in.
Fat chance of that, it seems.
That this news broke on the same day it was announced Foden’s club team-mates Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez had tested positive for coronavirus merely underlines the dimness.
No wonder Manchester City’s condemnation was more emphatic than Southgate’s public reprimand.
Look, boys will be boys, and all that. We get it.
But how about not being boys a day after you have been given the biggest career honour of your young adult life and are still representing your country?
How long will it be before Greenwood and Foden are brought back to the England set up? Have your say here.
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These lads do not even have the excuse that they have not been advised.
Young elite footballers are advised about everything nowadays. What company they should keep, what pratfalls they should avoid, how to behave in public, in media commitments, what agents to steer clear of, how to recognise a shyster from a mile.
And they will have been fully advised on Covid rules.
But they have chosen to simply ignore the advice. Not bother with it.
That is not stupidity, that is arrogance.
And that arrogance could even have resulted in England’s match in Copenhagen being called off. Why should the Danes welcome a squad that, not long ago, contained two Covid-19 rule-breakers?
This is not the crime of the century and everyone makes mistakes in life and suffers the immediate consequences.
Those consequences for Foden and Greenwood were to be annexed from their new England team-mates, dispatched to the UK in ignominy and have the humiliation of being condemned by their own clubs.
That is punishment enough.
If they feel the need to make some sort of charitable gesture by way of contrition, then fine.
This should not impact on their immediate playing prospects for either club or country.
Not officially, that is.
But despite talking about supporting them, my guess is Southgate will not forget this stupidity for a good while.
It was certainly more memorable than their debuts.
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