Sad, nonsense and a big red herring - Southgate dismisses World Cup boredom claims
Gareth Southgate has dismissed concerns that England's players could suffer from boredom during their downtime at the World Cup.
Filling the time between training sessions and matches has long been a contentious issue, with previous squads claiming to have struggled with boredom.
Southgate does not believe that should be an issue for the 23-man squad travelling to Russia, though, stressing the huge excitement within the young squad.
"I think it is sad, nonsense and a big red herring," he told a media conference. "My old physio at [Aston] Villa used to say that only boring people get bored.
"There is an energy in the group, there is always something going on. Previously the issue may have been cultural.
"The players have had a few days away from camp this time and that is important. We have trained really well at St George's Park and the players have only been a couple of hours away from their families.
"We have done things as a group that they have enjoyed and that will continue all through the World Cup.
"We are going there to enjoy it and they will play better if they do."
And Southgate does not believe pressure should weigh heavy on England's shoulders despite the huge desire from supporters for the national team to do well.
"Pressure is what you perceive it to be and is influenced by what you read and watch," said Southgate.
"We had some guys in from the Marines who had lost limbs in situations. What is the pressure on us? We're going to a World Cup, the highlight of everyone's career, we are mates going away to play in a World Cup, it's fantastic.
"You want to be in games that matter with profile and importance, if that is pressure, well OK. But we can only control our performance and training. We have to enjoy the experience."
England's final warm-up match sees them face Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday, and Southgate says there are still places up for grabs for the opening group game with Tunisia.
"For sure Jack Butland plays in goal," added the manager. "We will make a lot of changes and Trent Alexander-Arnold will get a debut.
"[But] there are definitely places up for grabs for the first game of the tournament.
"You want to know who is in form and any time a player has 10 minutes or 90 minutes of the field they have an opportunity to make a statement in the way they play.
"Yes [I have a starting XI in mind for Tunisia] but there are a couple of places in the team where as a manager you are looking at who your better options are.
"A football team is an ever-moving, ever-evolving beast and there is no room for complacency or slipping of standards.
"I have not been telling people they are in for the past two weeks, in my experience that is not a good way to get the most out of players."