Gareth Southgate's 'relaxed' England squad is no different to any other, says John Barnes
From the outside there is a different feel to the England squad preparing to face Panama in their second World Cup game on Sunday, though John Barnes insists there is nothing new to the PR surrounding Gareth Southgate’s side.
The Three Lions, who in the past have been hindered by club cliques, stories of isolation and wags, have been described as ‘brilliantly boring’ this time around.
The squad and FA have been hailed for their open approach to the media during their pre-tournament training camp and following their arrival in Repino.
Barnes, who went to two World Cups with England - first in 1986 before Italia 90, says should things go wrong in Russia, this Three Lions squad will be revealed to be the same as any other before it.
“My experience [of the England bubble] was relaxed, open and groundbreaking, just like this one,” Barnes told Standard Sport.
“It’s just all great PR to talk about, this squad isn’t any different to any other squad.
“Of course then if then don’t play well or if they lose, there will be an excuse as to why, you always here excuses after.”
Speaking on behalf of Bonus Code Bets, Barnes added: “Going into any tournament we’ve heard this is the most relaxed squad there has been, so it isn’t any different, no different to any squad I’ve been in or compared to other World Cup’s gone by.
“The only difference is it’s a very inexperienced squad, for a lot of the players this is their first World Cup so they have never been in the situation before, so from that point of view maybe they’re all together because they’ve never been there before.
“Players like Steven Gerrard and David Beckham had two or three World Cups so maybe they were used to it, so the atmosphere could have been different.
“But I don’t think this squad is any more together or relaxed than others before.”
England’s win over Tunisia was, in all, an encouraging one for Southgate, with captain Harry Kane putting his major tournament duck behind him at the first chance.
However, there remain concerns following the opener. The profligacy of those behind Kane, namely Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and - albeit a defender - John Stones, who all passed up chances to put the game beyond Tunisia well before the Tottenham striker’s injury time winner.
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If England are going to reach the quarter-finals, or beyond with players talking of going all the way this summer, Barnes says it is imperative others step up.
“You don’t want to rely on any one person, because if Harry Kane gets injured in the next game and then doesn’t play, that means we can’t win matches.
“It is better if others chip in, spreading the goals around is always going to be better than one person scoring, but if you look they are not necessarily prolific goalscorers in their League form anyway.
“It is important first, particularly if they’re talking about going and winning the tournament, I think what we have and the way we play, the chances we create for Kane to score is good enough to get us so far.
“I’ve said I’ll think we’ll get to the quarter-finals, and maybe even further, but if they’re talking about winning it then that is where you need other to step up from a goalscoring perspective.”