Gareth Southgate toasts the rousing support given to England goalscorer Bukayo Saka after his Euros heartbreak… and praises the returning Jesse Lingard as ‘the brightest spark’
- Saka saw his penalty saved in a spot-kick defeat vs Italy in the Euro 2020 final
- The Gunners winger was one who received sickening racist abuse after the final
- But England fans showed their backing for the 20-year-old with his every touch
- And Three Lions manager Southgate says Saka will realise how supported he is
Gareth Southgate believes Bukayo Saka will realise just how popular and supported he is after his emotional return to Wembley against Andorra.
Saka marked his 20th birthday and first England appearance on home soil since his heart-breaking end to Euro 2020 with a goalscoring display. Saka’s late header, which followed an earlier assist for Jesse Lingard, was greeted by the loudest cheer of the afternoon and the winger was mobbed by his team-mates.
And it came after his name and every early touch were cheered and his, Marcus Rashford’s and Jadon Sancho’s faces were on a banner of support from England fans.
England manager Gareth Southgate toasted the support given to Bukayo Saka in the Three Lions’ 4-0 World Cup qualifying win against Andorra at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night
Saka was racially abused after failing to score in a spot-kick Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy
The trio were urged to ‘walk tall’ after being subjected to racist abuse when they were unable to convert their penalties in England’s final loss to Italy in July.
Southgate revealed he spoke to Saka in the build-up to the game ahead of his return to Wembley and said: ‘I had to catch up with him a couple of days ago.
‘I suppose I was mindful coming back to Wembley, but really I just emphasised what he will now recognise from the reception he got from the crowd, that my thoughts of him when I look at the summer are all positive.
Bukayo Saka (right) revelled in a ‘perfect birthday present’ after scoring against Andorra
The Arsenal youngster scored a header to round off a 4-0 win at Wembley on Sunday evening
‘He will, I’m sure, have gained a lot of confidence and heart from the reception he got before the game. And then the reception of his team-mates when he scored I think shows you what they think of him.
‘It’s a lovely, lovely story for him to get his goal on his birthday as well. From my perspective, he doesn’t need closure.
‘We think he’s a super player, he’s 20 years old, the rate he’s progressed and the maturity he’s played with, the talent that he has. He is a hugely exciting player and has already produced some big performances for England so no need, from our side, for closure.’
Southgate also praised the returning midfielder Jesse Lingard (above) as ‘the brightest’ spark
Southgate named an entirely changed starting XI and admitted his side struggled for ‘cohesion’ against Andorra before the arrival of Harry Kane, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount in the 62nd minute led to a late three-goal burst.
Along with Jude Bellingham, however, Lingard stood out with two goals and an assist with Southgate describing Manchester United man Lingard as: ‘The brightest spark, particularly in the first half.’
After winning all of their first five qualifiers, England now head to Poland on Wednesday and Southgate said: ‘It’s a great incentive if we can go to Warsaw and win, then we are really in control of the group.’
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