Shropshire Star

Ex-Aston Villa man Nigel Reo-Coker wants England to continue playing with freedom

Ex-Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker believes England can surprise teams at the World Cup if they continue to play with the freedom they showed in their tournament opener.

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England kicked off their World Cup in perfect fashion on Monday with a 6-2 rout of Iran - and are now preparing for their second group game with USA on Friday.

Speaking to Spin Genie, Reo-Coker praised Gareth Southgate for the way he set England up on Monday - and believes he should let his side continue go to out and express themselves for the rest of the tournament.

He said: "Shackles were off against Iran, England ready to surprise teams if they keep playing with freedom: I think Gareth Southgate will be aware of the criticism he has faced for being cautious in the past. With the talent that we have in England, the talent that we're developing, we need to be a lot more adventurous and the players need the freedom to express themselves.

"Let them go out there and express themselves like the Brazilians do, the Argentinians do. England definitely has talent. I think if we let the shackles come off and allow the players the opportunity to express themselves, give them that confidence, we will surprise a lot of nations.

"It sends a good message. I think that it was a performance that Gareth Southgate and the team needed. If you look at the last couple of results, which have been indifferent, you know, they lost to Hungary and, obviously, the draw against Germany. They conceded a lot of goals and there were loads of questions about players being tired. That was a performance that was definitely needed to give the players confidence and the kind of result that relieves the media pressure on Gareth Southgate.

"I think Southgate has earned the right as a manager to pretty much do what he wants, because I've seen great progression in this England side. What he's done for these young players from when he took over to where they're at now, is absolutely fantastic.

"It was an eye-catching performance because we didn't expect to beat Iran that comfortably. When you analyse England's performance today, they were patient, professional and clinical. You have to give the team credit for delivering a performance like that at a World Cup."

Reo-Coker has also given his opinion on the decision for Harry Kane and other captains not to wear the OneLove armband, which represents diversity and inclusion.

Kane and a host of other captains were due to wear the armband until FIFA threatened associations that those wearing the armbands would risk a booking.

Reo-Coker added: "I think it would have been a powerful statement (to wear the armband), but I don’t think it’s a missed opportunity by England and Harry Kane.

"I think people have to understand it’s unfair to put players in those positions, they aren’t the ones who voted for the World Cup to be hosted in Qatar.

"The protests shouldn’t be put on the players and I don’t think that’s fair nor right. I know FIFA said that Harry Kane would have been given a yellow card for wearing it, and FIFA also said they would sanction teams because of it."