England winger Jack Grealish caught the eye after becoming visibly frustrated at his substitution during the Three Lions’ 1-1 draw with Hungary on Tuesday. Manager Gareth Southgate will undoubtedly be aware of the reaction now the dust has settled, and it serves as a reminder that the relationship between boss and player has not always been smooth sailing.
It was a frustrating night for Southgate’s side as they missed an opportunity to all but confirm their qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
The boss took a gamble by playing Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Grealish in the same team, and it did not pay off.
Grealish saw plenty of the ball and put in some nice touches, although England lacked penetration in general and struggled to cause Hungary problems from open play.
During the second half, Southgate opted to change things around and raised eyebrows when he chose the Manchester City man to make way.
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Muttering angrily to himself on the bench, the 26-year-old was clearly not happy with the decision as England battled on for the three points.
The incident served as a reminder that Grealish and Southgate have not always seen eye-to-eye, particularly during the extended spell when the midfielder-turned-winger was overlooked for a place in the squad.
In 2020, the Birmingham-born trickster liked a Tweet which criticised Southgate for leaving him out.
The year before, the England boss justified Grealish’s absence by saying he needed more top-flight experience, but then chose Kalvin Phillips instead before the Leeds United man had made his Premier League bow.
At the time, there were rampant calls for Grealish to be included in the Three Lions squad after notching 14 Premier League goal contributions for Aston Villa that season.
Eventually, Southgate did take the plunge and he has not looked back since.
Having been used mainly as an impact substitute during England’s emotional run at Euro 2020, he has become a regular starter in the wake of the tournament.
The former Middlesbrough boss has no reason to overlook Grealish anymore in light of his £100million move to City, giving him the opportunity to learn from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne week in, week out.
Still, Southgate was disappointed with the performance in general, saying after the game: “I thought it was just one of those nights where we started poorly, we weren’t in contact with them on our pressure, which gave them a little bit of comfort in the game.
“I just thought it was an unusually disjointed performance that we’ve got to go away and look at closely and make sure we put it right for next month.”
In general, Grealish’s England career, as well as his relationship with the boss is looking up.
However, Tuesday night was a blip and a reminder that a hint of friction could still be bubbling under the surface.