Kieran Trippier rejected suggestions that England have resorted to dark arts at the World Cup, saying their streetwise approach is nothing different to what opponents have had to deal with for years.
The Three Lions are preparing for a mouthwatering quarter-final against Sweden this week after coming through on penalties against Colombia on Tuesday.
England’s callow squad showed a street-smart edge in Moscow that belied their inexperience, with Gareth Southgate saying that maybe they are now playing “by the rules the rest of the world are”.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman remarkably criticised that approach and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho spoke of “exaggeration on theatre by the players” – accusations that surprised right-back Trippier.
“Sometimes it’s about being clever,” he said. “If someone touches you… and it’s about game management as well.
“You see Colombia had 20-25 minutes where they were on top. Sometimes you just need to kill the game down a bit.
“If someone makes contact with you, it is a foul, you are going to go down.
“Everyone has got their own opinion and that’s a fact.
“In our eyes a foul is a foul. You see Hendo’s one and I don’t know how he got a yellow card personally for that.
“That game’s gone now, I don’t really want to comment.”
Asked if England are now a streetwise team, he added: “It’s being clever in the moments of the game where you feel other team is on top.
“If someone touches you and you feel it’s a foul, people go down. It’s a foul.
“Teams have done it to us over the years for many years. Teams have gone down so easily.
“You see Colombia. In my eyes, I went for a tackle with Falcao and he just dropped to the floor and I just said to him ‘get up’ – not like that but you know what I mean.”
Game management is something driven into Tottenham’s players by Mauricio Pochettino and has been spoken about at the World Cup, where keeping your cool is crucial.
David Beckham is a prime example of what can happens when England players get wound up, having seen red for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup.
The midfielder was seen as a villain after that but would became a national hero and an idol to kids like Trippier.
“I’ve not met him but I would love to – I’m a massive fan of him,” said the right-back, nicknamed the ‘Bury Beckham’ for his dead-ball delivery and crossing.
“Hopefully, down the line, we can cross paths and have a chat.
“I used to watch Beckham and (Andrea) Pirlo, players like this, over their careers – they have got a fantastic right foot on them and everyone knows that.
“Beckham was the one I always looked up to – the technique, his crossing, on the move or set pieces. He’s the one I used to look up to on crossing the ball for sure.”
Only Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne have created more chances at this World Cup than Trippier – “not bad for a Bury lad” – and the full-back is grateful to his Manchester City youth coach for working on delivery with the then winger.
The 27-year-old still speaks to Steve Eyre every week and was also quick to play up the role of brother Kelvin Lomax in his development.
“When I was younger my brother was playing for Oldham,” Trippier said. “He was League One and League Two, and he’s the one I looked up to.
“I used to go and watch him every week, watching his training sessions at Oldham, playing there, kicking it against the wall.
“I just looked up to my brother because he was a professional and he was the one I wanted to follow.
“Unfortunately, he is not playing now but he’s the one who has helped me a hell of a lot. He was a full-back. He was a right-back and left-back.
“He played a few games in the Football League and he’s had a big impact on my career.”
A number of Trippier’s family members will be out in Russia for the quarter-final having watched the Colombia triumph back in Summerseat, where a 20ft high flagpole displays a huge St George’s Cross with ‘Trippier 2’ on it.
“For so long we didn’t win a penalty shootout and the joy of our fans back home, it was incredible,” he said.
“All the boys sense it and want to win more games to let the fans celebrate like they did and give them happiness and hopefully Saturday we can do that.”