Three Lions chief Gareth Southgate happy for Jack Grealish ahead of Euro 2020

ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate said that his final decision regarding his injury replacement for Trent Alexander-Arnold will be guided by positional concerns rather than form – in the wake of James Ward-Prowse’s impressive display in the laboured friendly win over Romania.

England's James Ward-Prowse (left) and Romania's Andrei Ivan battle for the ball during the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough. Picture date: Sunday June 6, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping.

The performance of the Southampton player, one of seven players who were cut from the provisional squad of 33 last week – but now have a chance of a reprieve after Alexander-Arnold’s withdrawal from the finals squad with a thigh injury – was one of the main positives from the Three Lions’ 1-0 victory over the Romanians in their final warm-up friendly at Riverside Stadium.

Ward-Prowse’s dead-ball prowess shone in the second of two England friendlies at Middlesbrough as the hosts signed off with an unconvincing performance.

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It was an occasion once again marred by some supporters booing home players taking the knee before kick-off in a home starting line-up which contained six BAME players.

England's James Ward-Prowse and Romania's Vlad Chiriches (Picture: PA)

One in captain-for-the-day Marcus Rashford proved the match-winner with a 68th-minute penalty, with England missing a second spot-kick ten minutes later when Jordan Henderson – who played his first game since February following groin surgery – saw his effort saved by Romania keeper Florin Nita.

In a game when England again looked uncomfortable from a defensive perspective at times, Ward-Prowse’s display and the continued impressive form of Jack Grealish proved to be the main substantives for the hosts, who face Croatia in their Group D opener at Wembley next Sunday.

Grealish won the first penalty when he was fouled by Romanian substitute Tiberiu Capusa, moments after he had come on as a replacement.

Southgate, who will name the replacement for Alexander-Arnold later today, said: “Prowesy’s professionalism and approach all week, given the disappointment of being left out, has been absolutely first class.

“The decision will not necessarily be about the performances today as such. It is going to be positional really and the area we feel we might need the most cover.

“I could not have been happier with the way Jesse [Lingard] and Oli Watkins approached things and the two young defenders [Ben White and Ben Godfrey].

They have all had excellent weeks and their mentality is what we have expected from the group.”

On the performance of Grealish, Southgate – whose Chelsea and Manchester City contingent trained on the pitch together following the game – said: “We have seen from Jack in the two games that he has those moments where he can really turn matches and he obviously did that from the left [for the goal] and it has been very useful for him to get those match minutes under his belt.

“He is getting a bit closer to full match sharpness and that has been very good for several of our players.

“Clearly the overall performance needs to improve from what we did, but it was nice to win and we have certainly learned a lot from the game.”

Despite pleas for fans to support players taking the knee, loud booing for the second game running greeted the anti-racism gesture alongside applause from other fans.

After speaking at length ahead of the game about the matter, Southgate was forced to again answer questions on the subject and repeated his stance that England players will continue to show solidarity in the ongoing fight against racial inequality having done so in each match since international football resumed last year.

He said: “Sadly, I expected what happened to happen.

“We have accepted that as a group, it is not going to stop what we are doing and believe and it is certainly not going to stop our support for our players and staff. We are going to have to live with that.”

Match analysis: Page 2