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Row Of Colours

Exclusive: Stuart Pearce on Kane's Form, Howe for England, Southgate to Man Utd, Williams to Arsenal, and Guehi's Old Trafford Prospects

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Speaking exclusively to Football Accumulators, England icon Stuart Pearce has called for Gareth Southgate to drop Harry Kane from his England side for their crunch contest against Slovenia.

Pearce has also tipped Eddie Howe to have the tools to succeed as the next manager of England while backing Gareth Southgate to bring success back to Manchester United.

The former left-back has also urged Spain star Nico Williams to pick Arsenal over Chelsea this summer and tipped Marc Guehi to have what it takes to impress at Manchester United.

Q: What went wrong for England in their draw against Denmark?

SP: “I think England’s performance against Denmark was really flat, physically flat. In the first game, we should’ve shown a little bit more energy towards what we were trying to achieve, but certainly against Denmark it was really below par.

“I think that's why we saw the introduction of Conor Gallagher to try and inspire some life and energy. As well with Eberechi Eze and certainly Ollie Watkins up front and Jarrod Bowen, they were players that have got good energy about them.

“I think by the time we got to that stage of the game, the performance was fairly flat as it was, you know. It was a really disappointing evening's football. The only bright spots were Bukayo Saka and also Marc Guehi, who was probably the best player for England.”

Q: Has the snub of Cole Palmer surprised you?

SP: “I’m not surprised that Cole Palmer again didn’t get a chance to play. I think Palmer is probably not one of those players to inspire energy and I think the team needed energy.

“I think they needed some sort of drive in midfield, drive to press and drive to attack quickly.

“I certainly think with Ollie Watkins, we looked a little bit better. At least we had a focal point of someone running in behind.

“In regard to Palmer not coming on, it didn't overly surprise me because I think the game needed players with a little bit more energy.”

Q: Has the Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment reached a conclusion?

SP: “I think the experiment of Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield is over, but I can also see it from Trent’s point of view in terms of not having many runners in behind.

“I think every time England have picked the ball up, there have been four attack-minded players coming back towards the ball, looking to receive the feet and nobody running in behind.

“Trent's in the team to supply balls in behind. If you haven't got runners, it's a big problem for him. I'll be surprised if he starts again against Slovenia in that system.

“I think it’s a game in which we've got to try one or two different combinations within the team in the hope that we get a formula that works slightly better.”

Q: If Luke Shaw can’t play at all for England will that be a disaster?

SP: “If Luke Shaw isn’t fit then it’s a disaster as far as England are concerned. There was an outside chance of him being fit and available when bringing him to the tournament and obviously Gareth Southgate would’ve had guidance from the medical staff.

“But if he is only fit for the last 16 or the quarter-final then I think that's too far down the line for a player that hasn't played since February.

“I think it was worth the gamble taking him, England just need him in the team.”

Q: What did you make of Gareth Southgate blaming the absence of Kalvin Phillips?

SP: “Gareth Southgate’s comment regarding not having a replacement for Kalvin Phillips was strange. I think whenever you don't pick anyone in your squad of players, you're better off not even mentioning them, even when pressed.

“The media want to talk about players that are not there and not in the squad and not being picked. It was a shame that he'd lost form really and didn't recover that form to force his way into the squad.

“Phillips has been a big player for England in the past but it was a strange one for Gareth Southgate to bring up.

“We're going to have to find a formula that does work in that midfield area. It might even be a formula that gets Declan Rice playing slightly further forward and Adam Wharton playing in behind him.”

Q: Would you drop Harry Kane for the Slovenia game?

SP: “In all honesty, I would drop Harry Kane against Slovenia in order to give Ollie Watkins a run out. England need more energy in the team.

“It would be a big call for Gareth Southgate but we're not in the process of worrying about headlines really.

“It's a case of having a squad of players and we need to utilise them in the best possible way to freshen it up a little bit, which will give one or two a little bit of a chance to put their feet up potentially that have started both games.

“Then you might change again when we go into the round of 16. I don't think it would do us any harm whatsoever by making a few changes. I can see at least three changes, maybe more, in the lineup. I'll be surprised if there aren't.

“Kane has been very lethargic and lacking a bit of energy. The way Harry plays, he doesn't run and dart and spin in behind and we've got three other attack-minded players coming to the ball - it's a recipe that won't work.

“So many teams playing in this championship are very quick on the counter-attack. We've got to find a way to do that.“

Q: Who would be in your England XI against Slovenia?

SP: “It might even be a case of potentially having to look for a three at the back and see how that works and even look at Phil Foden playing as a more out and out number 10. It wouldn't be a bad thing to give him a little run in that position.

“That might lend itself to playing him and Bellingham as two number 10s potentially behind Watkins.

“I think whatever he does, somewhere down the line he's got to tinker with the midfield to get the balance right. There are a lot of question marks at the moment about the way we play. I don't see any counter-attack threat, any energy on the counter-attack. That's something that we need to find because it's a big part of the game.

“When we were playing well a while back, that was a main feature of our game. So it won't be an easy selection, this one, but there'll definitely be changes. No doubt in my mind about that.”

Q: Could Bukayo Saka do a job at left-back for England?

SP: “I wouldn’t play Bukayo Saka at left-back because I wouldn't want to take him away from what he does best. Over the two games Saka has been England’s best player alongside Guehi.

“So to take a player out of a position that he's one of your better players and water him down and put him as a left back, I'd wouldn’t be brave enough to move him into left back if I'm being quite honest with you.

“But maybe as a left wing-back, potentially, if you play a three at the back.”

Q: What is your score prediction for England vs Slovenia?

SP: “If we played the same way as we did again, I think we would only get a point. If we play any better, with a bit more energy, I think we'll win the game.

“I'm confident at this stage that we've got the ability among the players, but we need a slightly better recipe than we've seen over the last two games. 1-0, I would suspect. We don't look like we're going to be able to win comfortably.”

Q: What did you make of James McClean calling Declan Rice overrated?

SP: “I completely disagree with Declan Rice being called overrated. I think he's an outstanding player in the role that he plays in the team.

“The only downside I would say about Rice is that he's got more in his locker and if he played in a more positive position on the pitch we would see a better Declan Rice.

“It might be a case of finding a way to play Rice in his favourite position like he does for Arsenal in order to get the best out of him.”

Q: What did you make of Cristiano Ronaldo’s role for Portugal?

SP: “Watching Portugal I saw a few occasions in which he made a run or pulled into space and Cristiano Ronaldo was ignored for some reason.

“Ronaldo is a player with outstanding talent but at his age you've got to use him wisely especially as a striker. I'm not sure he can play in all their games for 90 minutes, but I think in Roberto Martinez he's got a manager that will enjoy working with him.

“But Ronaldo is the ultimate professional and he had as many shots as anybody else so it's finding a way of using him. I think limiting his minutes will get the best impact from him.

“That might be from the bench coming on or alternatively I can't see him seeing out 90 minutes all the time for Portugal.”

Q: Can Portugal win the tournament with Cristiano Ronaldo up front?

SP: “I didn't see enough the other night to suggest that I thought Portugal could go and win the tournament, but that can change. If Portugal are going to win the tournament then they will need Ronaldo’s goals that is for sure.

“He's an incredible goalscorer and an incredible player and has been an incredible player, but Martinez has got the luxury of a lot of big players on the bench that can come on and make an impact like Diogo Jota.”

Q: What is your score prediction for Scotland vs Hungary?

SP: “I'm hoping Scotland will win. I was really impressed with the way Scotland came out against Switzerland after losing to Germany.

“They went into the second game under a lot of pressure because of the first result and because of some of the negative statements that the squad received. I thought they'd done really well. “They came out, they pressed pretty high. They showed good energy and that showed good confidence within the group.

“They've got the result that they needed to take them into the last game with the opportunity. If they win, they're through. They know it's all in their hands now.

“I think they'll get that desired result. I really do. I would go for a 1-0. I think it'll be a low scoring game without a doubt. But I think they've certainly got the ability to win the game if they show the same energy and don't let the pressure of the occasion get to them.”

Q: Would Mauricio Pochettino be a good choice for England after Southgate?

SP: “Mauricio Pochettino is an outstanding manager but it wouldn’t be easy for him to replace Gareth Southgate.

“If the FA or Gareth himself decide that this is the end of his journey, whoever they go for won't have an easy task.

“I don't see a lot of managers readily available at this moment in time. If you're looking for another foreign manager, England might also look at Jurgen Klopp who knows the players so well.”

Q: Who would be the standout for the next England manager?

SP: “I think Eddie Howe has got the criteria to replace Gareth Southgate. At the moment he represents Newcastle and I'm sure they wouldn't want to let him go, but I think Eddie's got the tools and the personality as well.

“I think he's a calm individual. He strikes me that way from the outside. It strikes me that he's got a similar sort of mentality to Gareth that could handle the pressure of the job.

“But Newcastle have got a good backing at the club as well. The fan base is incredible. I've seen it first-hand, also some managers want to manage on a daily basis. They want that contact on a daily basis.”

Q: Does Gareth Southgate have what it takes to bring success to Manchester United?

SP: “Gareth Southgate definitely has what it takes to be the next manager of Manchester United.

“Over the last eight years with England he's taken the team on the journey and done incredible things, whatever happens in this tournament he has done an amazing job.

“I don't see a job like Manchester United being too big for him or not being a natural step for him. I really don't.

“The England job is the toughest job you can do in management, if you can do that, I think you can do any club job.”

Q: How good a signing would Niklas Fullkrug be for Manchester United?

SP: “Niclas Fullkrug has certainly done extremely well for his club and you can see the part he plays for his country too, he’s done well so you can see why he’s been linked to clubs like Manchester United.

“In that position there is always clamour for someone who is proven and most players in the world want to come to the Premier League.

“So I think it would be a great move for him if he decided he wanted to leave Germany and come here. Whether he's the right fit or not, we’d have to wait and see.”

Q: Should Manchester United sign Marc Guehi this summer?

SP: “I think Lisandro Martinez is deemed as the number one central defender for Manchester United but Marc Guehi has done his chances of joining him no harm at Euro 2024.

“I think he's had a brilliant season for his club and what he's done in these two games, whenever he steps out for England, I've been quite impressed with him. He has a little bit of pace and he reads the game extremely well.

“Physically he's not got big stature for a central defender but I think he makes up for that with his pace and his knowledge of the game. So he's done himself no harm of landing a big transfer and it'll be no surprise to me if Palace get a lot of interest in him after the Euros.

Q: Should Manchester United sign Jarrad Branthwaite this summer?

SP: “Jarrad Branthwaite, he's had a brilliant season for Everton and it's good for English football that we've got individuals like that coming through and doing extremely well.

“The more experience you can gain, the more pressure situations you've been in in your career, the better it is for you whenever you step up a standard.

“It could be Manchester United but I'm sure there'll be other takers out there because he certainly caught the eye this year. He's done extremely well, left-sided. He ticks a lot of boxes.

“I think it'll be a shame if Everton lose him, but I can understand if they need to balance the books slightly and they get interest from elsewhere, but I'm pretty sure Everton and Sean Dyche will want the game right for him because he's an up-and-coming player.”

Q: How good would Conor Gallagher be for Tottenham?

SP: “I think Conor Gallagher would be a good fit for Tottenham. He's impressed me. He's full of energy, full of life and he's quite infectious on a football pitch.

“I would probably arguably say he's been in the top maybe two or three Chelsea players this year. The way Ange Postecoglou plays, he fits the bill brilliantly.

“If you want someone to squeeze or press but also put in recovery runs, Connor's your man, without a doubt. He's absolutely ideally suited.”

Q: Where could you see Harry Maguire if he is to leave Manchester United?

SP: “I think Harry Maguire would be a good acquisition for other Premier League sides. But you're talking about how much money and obviously that's the deciding factor.

“Harry's on whatever he's on financially and for him to leave for a club that might offer him less than his going rate at the moment, that might be the sticking point with that move.

“But I think he needs to play first team football at this moment in his career. So whether that is at United or elsewhere, the bottom line for him is that he needs to play.”

Q: Would selling Caoimhin Kelleher be a mistake for Liverpool this summer?

SP: “I think if you're in the top four or the top six teams in the country, you've got to have a really reliable backup goalkeeper. You cannot afford not to because those points that you might lose when your first choice goalkeeper is out wouldn't be worth it.

“Probably from their point of view, if they see Kelleher as the right option and is good enough, they're better off hanging on.

“But it depends who they've got coming through. They might have a good young goalkeeper coming through who can fill that role.”

Q: Is Edson Alvarez ready for a move to Manchester United?

SP: “I think Edson Alvarez had a really good season at West Ham. He breaks things up and he's helped cushion the blow from Declan Rice leaving.

“Moving to Manchester United? I don't know whether it's something that the player would want. He's only been at West Ham a year, so it would be interesting to see if that is the case.

“But I think he's done well enough to draw the attention of certain teams.”

Q: Should Nico Williams join Arsenal or Chelsea this summer?

SP: “For Nico Williams, you've got to say that Arsenal will be a better destination for him than Chelsea at this moment in time.

“However, it's down to what the teams want to pay financially in their wage structure and maybe if he's got one or two friends at individual clubs as well then they'll talk him round.

“Any players in Europe that are young and talented, they're going to get suitors in the Premier League and often more than one club so it could also be personal preference.

“The more talented players we get coming to the Premier League the better and he would be one of them, we've got talented players from all over Europe and the world coming and plying their trade here which is excellent.”

Q: Would a return to Aston Villa be the best thing for the career of Jack Grealish?

SP: “I think Jack Grealish needs to play. I think Manchester City is a good club for him to play at personally, you know, but he's got to do well enough to get in their first team. That's the bottom line.

“I think rather than say, look, he just needs to move away, it’s not as simplistic as that, City paid £100 million for it. So they're going to want a large chunk of that finance back.

“I'm not sure Aston Villa are prepared to pay anywhere near that figure to get him back so I think he needs to play at City. I don't think his future should be away from Manchester City. I think it's down to him and the onus is on him to play well enough to get back in the team.”