John Stones and Jordan Pickford had a heated debate over the goalkeeper's use of the long ball on Sunday
Gareth Southgate has given his England players the green light to use the long ball during the European Championships, despite an on-pitch argument over it between Jordan Pickford and John Stones during the victory over Croatia.
Pickford and Stones were spotted having what appeared to be a heated debate towards the end of the first half over the goalkeeper looking to go long and the Manchester City defender appearing to want the ball at his feet.
While the disagreement was spotted by a number of pitchside witnesses and photographers, and was collaborated by sources, it is understood there was no lasting problem between the pair who later shook hands and celebrated England’s win and clean sheet.
Tyrone Mings almost put Raheem Sterling through on goal with a long ball straight after the debate between Pickford and Stones, which continued after England had been awarded a free-kick, and Southgate confirmed that the subject was raised during the half-time break.
Pickford was not always accurate with his kicking and that could be something Southgate will demand improvement on ahead of England’s second group game against Scotland on Friday night.
Asked whether Pickford and Stones were debating the use of long balls, Southgate said: “I think they were just deciding, we give them pictures and it depends how the opposition press and there were times where it was on to take on.
“We don’t have as long to work on those patterns playing from goal kicks as you do at a club, and also we’re one mistake away from it being more costly, across 38 games that’s different.
“Those guys are able to make those decisions. We give them possible patterns depending on how the opposition are pressing, there was a little spell where we went long and we just talked about that at half-time. We didn’t want to do that every time. But there are moments to go longer, we’ve got a centre forward who wins more of his share of the ball.
“And we shouldn’t be football snobs. It’s great to play out from the back and get to the halfway line in control of the ball, but it’s just as effective to go to the centre forward and be in control of the ball and be able to play from there. The variety is important against top opposition.”
Gareth Southgate says variety is important when facing top-class opposition
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
England’s players were not allowed a drinks break during the opening match, despite the sweltering conditions, because the on-pitch temperature did not reach the UEFA threshold of 32 degrees.
But Telegraph Sport understands that Southgate and his staff attempted to tackle the hot conditions by giving each player an ‘ice towel’ at half-time, together with mist sprays and extra water to help the players cool down ahead of the second half.
England players, some of whom did a lap of honour at full-time, were reminded after the Croatia game that there is plenty of hard work ahead and that focus must immediately shift to the visit of Scotland to Wembley.
“We know what football is and we know how sport works,” said Southgate. “We haven’t achieved our first objective yet. So it’s really pleasing that everybody outside is happy and we can go home, back to St George’s, pleased with the day’s work. But we have to move to the next.
“Of course, expectations are always going to be there. We have to handle that. But as long as that’s realistic, you saw the age of the team, the number of caps compared to the opponent (Croatia). We’re still growing and learning and to be able to bring boys like Jude (Bellingham) into that environment is also hugely encouraging. Sunday was a good day, but we know we have to start again.”