Newcastle's £45m masterstroke held back by bizarre 'blooding' claim as big names unite

Five-and-a-half minutes. Four touches. One moment of magic. That's all Anthony Gordon needed to make an impression on his Euros debut.

"That direct approach - just causing problems and going for teams - is probably what we're missing," the Newcastle United star said after Tuesday's goalless draw against Slovenia. "You see towards the end of it, we created a really good chance just from going for it and not worrying about losing the ball."

That fearlessness was evident when Gordon finally entered the fray in Cologne on Tuesday night. Kyle Walker quickly found the substitute and Gordon knocked the ball forward as he set off on a footrace with Zan Karnicnik down the line only for the ball to bobble out of play.

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The move did not come off, but it was a signal of intent that did not escape the attention of former England international Lee Dixon. "The full-back was running with him," he said. "He's looking, going, 'Hang on a minute. This lad fancies a run at me.' It just puts the defender in a completely different mindset."

Undeterred, just a couple of minutes later, Gordon threw both his arms up to signal that he wanted the ball before shouting "WALKS!" after being ignored. Walker duly played the ball out to Gordon who, by now, had dropped deep into the left-back position inside his own half.

Gordon dribbled towards the centre circle away from two Slovenia players before playing a superb pass to Kobbie Mainoo that took half a dozen blue shirts out of the game in the blink of an eye. Mainoo flicked the ball to Harry Kane, who laid it off for the onrushing Cole Palmer, but the substitute's effort was straight at Jan Oblak.

It was England's best move of the night. In truth, it was one of the few times Gareth Southgate's team had put a flowing move together all tournament.

"It was a super piece of play," Southgate said. "It's so important that the players come in realise they're going to get opportunities if they keep training the way they're training. They're supporting the team brilliantly and we know we have some good options to change games, which is crucial with the five substitutions especially."

And, yet, Gordon has just one measly cameo to his name in Germany despite England's lack of balance and lack of runners in behind. It has led to Alan Shearer asking: "What's Gordon done to him [Southgate]?"

Shearer is not alone. Wayne Rooney, Gary Lineker, Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Micah Richards are among a growing group of united former internationals who would all have the £45m man in their starting line-up yet, perhaps, it would be a surprise if Southgate followed suit at the weekend.

To think this was a player Southgate picked in his squad ahead of old tournament favourites like Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford. A player he started in England's final warm-up game against Iceland when Gordon was one of the few to emerge with credit following a shock defeat at Wembley. A player who looked like a seasoned international on his senior debut against Brazil.

Southgate has pointed to the 'balance of blooding them in a difficult environment', in reference to the noise, yet the only way for England to change the narrative is with improved performances and Gordon is capable of delivering on the very biggest stage.

Southgate has seen that, himself, after personally watching Gordon shine against Arsenal and Spurs at St James' Park in the Premier League and seeing the forward repeatedly press PSG's shell-shocked defenders in the Champions League. Gordon's consistency has long caught Southgate's eye, whether it is the rapid Scouser's goal contributions, ability to win penalties or his tireless work without the ball.

Those qualities are now sorely needed. England had an XG of just 0.65 against Slovenia, who are the lowest-ranked side the Three Lions have ever faced in a match at a major tournament since the FIFA rankings were introduced. It was far from a one-off either; Albania, the Czech Republic and Turkey have all had more shots on target than Southgate's team at the Euros so far.

Harry Kane has spoken about his side not having that 'final bit of quality, that final pass, final finish or the cross'. The England captain pointed to how Gordon and his fellow substitutes brought a 'different type of dimension to the game and that's what we need'. John Stones said they made a 'great impact'. Just imagine if Gordon had longer on the field.