David James interview: Former England goalkeeper on Euro 2020, memories of playing in 2004 edition and more-Sports News , Firstpost

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Former England goalkeeper David James speaks to Firstpost.com about the team spirit of the England squad, his memories of playing in Euro 2004 and more.

File image of David James.

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England have a long history of disappointing on the global stage, with several promising generations of English teams failing to live up to their potential in major international tournaments. In the past, players from England’s golden generation of the 2000s have stated that this might have been caused by persisting rivalries between players from different clubs, which made them function less like a team and more like a group of highly talented individuals.

This time around, as they head into Euro 2020, England once again find themselves being, on paper at least, one of the strongest teams in the tournament, but according to former goalkeeper David James, there’s an undeniable camaraderie around the squad. “In football, it’s all about how united you are as a team, and that’s something which gives me a lot of confidence in this England team,” James told Firstpost.com, adding, ” I was with some of the players recently at an event, and the atmosphere was really good. There was a buzz around the team. We’ve seen this before, teams which have that camaraderie and that team spirit can really go out there and win against all odds. If you can get that harmony right, wonderful things happen.”

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James was also quick to praise the quality of the England team, pointing out the fact that several players in the squad were also involved in the Champions League final. “England has seven players from the two teams that played each other in the Champions League final in May. These players are so promising, in all different types of positions, and they’re playing for the best clubs. Mason Mount and Phil Foden in midfield, Kyle Walker, Ben Chilwell and John Stones in defense. They could all be in the starting line-up easily and it really does make you optimistic about this England side.”

Despite the strength of the England squad on paper, manager Gareth Southgate has come under a little criticism recently for picking Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire for the Euros, considering the fact that they had been injured for much of the final few months of the domestic season. Several prominent figures in football have stated that their inclusion might be motivated by a desire to improve the morale of the team.

James, on the other hand, stressed that the pair would not have been in the squad if they couldn’t contribute on the pitch, saying, “when you come down to it, I don’t think Gareth Southgate would have included Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire if he didn’t think they would feature at some point. Yes, they’ve been injured, but there’s a chance that he might be counting on them to be fit for the knockout stages, or even, fingers crossed, something like the semi-finals or the final.”

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“Southgate wouldn’t carry passengers around for no reason. Yes, there’s an argument that the pair could be in and around that squad mainly in a morale-boosting capacity, seeing as they are big figures in the dressing room, but I don’t think it makes sense to take them along just for that. Henderson and Maguire have been training, so there must be some degree of fitness recovered. I think that Southgate has a good, balanced squad at the moment, and I think he’s made the right decisions,” he added.

England have never won the Euros, despite participating in a majority of the previous editions, but James insisted that it would not be complete failure if they walk away from the tournament without the trophy.

“Yes, if England doesn’t qualify through the group stages, that would be massively disappointing. But if they go out in the knockout stages, that’s a different matter altogether. It’s one match, you never know what could happen, it could go either way. If you look at Portugal and Greece’s success in recent years in this tournament, you can see that it’s a competition in which even the less favoured teams have a decent chance of winning. So I wouldn’t consider a defeat in the later stages a complete disappointment, it’s all about doing as well as you can,” said James.

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London is one of the host cities for the tournament, and all of England’s group stage matches will be played at Wembley, as well as a round of 16 match, a semi-final match and the final. Fans will also be allowed to attend these fixtures, albeit in less numbers than they would have before the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our games will be played in England now, so it’s great that we’ll have home support. For the players who are in their first major international tournament, they’ll get that feeling of being backed all the way by the fans. Of course, it’s also great when you go play abroad, and fans travel out en masse to support you, but this will be a great experience as well,” said James.

James also spoke fondly of his own memories of playing in Euro 2004, a tournament in which he was an ever-present figure in the England team as they qualified for the knock out stages and reached the quarter-finals. “2004 was a wonderful experience for me. To walk out in the game against France in the first group stage match was a dream come true, even if the result wasn’t great.”

David James interview Former England goalkeeper on Euro 2020 memories of playing in 2004 edition and more

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David James in action during Euro 2004. AFP

“Then to beat Switzerland, to beat Croatia, and to qualify for the game against Portugal, it was all just something incredible. It was the first time I’d had that experience, because I was in the standby squad for both Euro 1996 and 2000, so that tournament really was special for me. I have wonderful memories of it,” he added.

Watch UEFA EURO 2020 – LIVE on Sony Ten 2 (English) & Ten 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels from 11 June 2021.

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