Jack Grealish after England's 3-0 win over Republic of Ireland: "It's a bit annoying actually because he probably gets a bit of stick at times from it. I think he's a terrific player, and I don't think we're even fighting for the same spot."
Friday 13 November 2020 14:34, UK
Jack Grealish defended "underrated" England midfielder Mason Mount from the ongoing "annoying" debate around the pair after their win over Ireland.
Grealish and Mount both starred for the Three Lions in their routine 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night, in what was the former's second start for his country.
Off the field, criticism has been levelled at England manager Gareth Southgate for a perceived reluctance to include the Aston Villa captain, who remained on the bench for England's last two competitive games, while Mount started both.
Southgate jokingly referenced internet memes regarding the pair in the build-up to England's friendly victory but Grealish, speaking to Sky Sports after full-time, said the reaction towards his international team-mate had begun to become a frustration.
"I love Mason. It's a bit annoying actually because he probably gets a bit of stick at times from it," he said.
"I've always been close with Mason. I think he's a terrific player, and I don't think we're even fighting for the same spot, to be honest.
"If anything, he's underrated, deserves all the credit he gets, and people who know about football will understand just how good he is."
Southgate himself was full of praise for both players following their roles on Thursday night and insisted both can play in the same XI under him, with Mount playing in a midfield two against Ireland, and Grealish - who set up a goal for Jadon Sancho - on the left of a front three.
When asked by ITV whether the pair could be compatible in his future line-ups, Southgate replied: "Yeah of course. There's a lot of other players in the squad as well, we have great competition for places. I was pleased with the way they moved the ball, Harry Winks did well, Bukayo Saka on the left looked a lot more comfortable than his first game.
With Grealish and Jadon Sancho routinely swapping flanks during the game, Southgate added: "The two players in those roles, Jadon and Jack, they've got the freedom to go either side and create overloads, and at times they did that really well."
Grealish himself added: "I want to play as much as possible; all I have to do is impress the manager as much as I can, since I've been here he's been brilliant with me, speaking to me on and off the pitch, telling me what he wants me to do, and that's what I've tried to do, so fingers crossed."
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By the end of the match, the average age of England's XI was around 22, and Southgate said in his post-match press conference that the experience was vital as Jude Bellingham and Dean Henderson made their debuts, while Bukayo Saka also impressed on his second cap.
"I think it was an important experience for several of the players, we knew we had experience in the three centre-backs and goalkeeper, and that was important to give stability to the team, because in front of that weren't as physically strong as we sometimes are.
"I thought the to midfield players used the ball quite well, and the combination with the full backs and forward players was exciting."
Asked if England needed to call up more players after Marcus Rashford (shoulder) and Conor Coady (self-isolating) were ruled out of the Nations League clashes with Belgium and Iceland, Southgate said: "I think we're OK on numbers. We think we've got the cover, but let's hope that is the case."
Southgate named a team that included a number of fringe players and many of them will have earned more trust from their manager after this.
England are back in UEFA Nations League action away to Belgium on Sunday November 15 at 7.45pm live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event, before hosting Iceland on November 18.