Gareth Southgate acknowledges that the racist abuse aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following their Euro 2020 final penalty misses adds “another layer” of complexity when selecting future shoot-out takers.
An incredible few weeks came to a crushing end last summer when spot-kicks proved the Three Lions’ undoing once again, with Italy lifting the European Championship at their expense under the Wembley arch.
Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed the crucial penalties and were immediately subjected to sickening racist online abuse, which led to some individuals receiving custodial sentences.
Jude Bellingham was disturbed by the way team-mates were treated as “just black” rather than English once they missed and Southgate was asked whether potential racist abuse would impact how he chose players and prepared them.
“I have to say it never crossed my mind before,” he said five months out from the World Cup. “It will (do now). When I left The Grove (hotel) that day I couldn’t help but feel: ‘Have I created this situation here for the boys?’
“But it wouldn’t be right to not pick the players you think are best to take them because of what the possible consequences of them missing would be. I’ve got to pick them on the belief they are going to score.”
Put to Southgate that black players may now have a fear of missing being compounded by racist abuse, he said: “We’re goosed then. We’ve got 55 years of talking about penalties and everything else.
“So we’ve now got another layer that’s going to make it extremely difficult for us to win anything.”
Southgate knows what it is like to fail with a key penalty for England, having missed in the Euro 96 semi-final defeat at Wembley.
But unlike Rashford, Sancho and Saka, the former defender was criticised for technique rather than skin colour.
“We know that’s ludicrous,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s Nations League game against Germany. “We know that’s outrageous to even think about.
“I’m trying to balance whether the question is about the racism itself, which is abhorrent and unacceptable, and what you’re identifying, that there’s another layer of complexity in making that decision.
“We went through a process of preparing for penalties. We’ve definitely reviewed that.
“Some of the boys have taken more with their clubs. Reece James has, I think, had four in shootouts this year. Trent (Alexander-Arnold) has had two.
“Bukayo has now taken a couple for his club, which were massively courageous moments that epitomised what he’s about.
“But indirectly, we have created another layer of difficulty in overcoming a penalty shoot-out. I have got to take all of those things into consideration and it is incredibly complex.
“One of the things that was very clear was that all the other big nations had far more who take regularly for their club.
“We only had (Harry) Kane and (Marcus) Rashford who was the second one in after Bruno Fernandes really.
“We have got to do that work. Maybe they are getting some practice with clubs, which definitely Chelsea and Liverpool did this year.
“But we’ve got to cover that work in our camps on the days we can and make it really focused and specific. We’re doing what we can. Psychology is definitely a part of it and I have to be aware of all of those things.”