Kieran Trippier has rejected suggestions that England have resorted to employment of the dark arts at the World Cup.
The Three Lions are preparing for a quarter-final against Sweden after coming through on penalties against Colombia on Tuesday.
England’s callow squad showed a street-smart edge in Moscow that belied their inexperience, with manager Gareth Southgate saying that maybe they are now playing “by the rules the rest of the world are”.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman remarkably criticised that approach and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho spoke of “exaggeration on theatre by the players” – accusations that surprised right-back Trippier.
“Sometimes it’s about being clever if someone touches you,” he said, “and it’s about game management as well.
“You see Colombia had 20-25 minutes where they were on top. Sometimes you just need to kill the game down a bit.
“If someone makes contact with you it is a foul, you are going to go down.
“Everyone has got their own opinion and that’s a fact.
“In our eyes a foul is a foul. You see Hendo’s [Jordan Henderson’s]one and I don’t know how he got a yellow card personally for that.
“That game’s gone now, I don’t really want to comment.”
Asked if England are now a streetwise team, he added: “It’s being clever in the moments of the game where you feel the other team is on top.
“If someone touches you and you feel it’s a foul people go down. It’s a foul. Teams have done it to us over the years for many years. Teams have gone down so easily.
“You see Colombia. In my eyes, I went for a tackle with [Radamel] Falcao and he just dropped to the floor and I just said to him, ‘get up’ – not like that, but you know what I mean.”
David Beckham is a prime example of what can happen when England players get wound up, having seen red for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup.
The midfielder was seen as a villain after that, but would became a national hero and an idol to children like Trippier.
“I’ve not met him but I would love to – I’m a massive fan of him,” said Tottenham’s right-back, nicknamed the ‘Bury Beckham’ for his dead-ball delivery and crossing. “Beckham was the one I always looked up to – the technique, his crossing, on the move or set pieces. He’s the one I used to look up to on crossing the ball for sure.”
Only Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne have created more chances at this World Cup than Trippier – “not bad for a Bury lad” – and the full-back is grateful to his Manchester City youth coach for working on delivery with the then winger.
The 27-year-old still speaks to Steve Eyre every week and was also quick to play up the role of brother Kelvin Lomax in his development.
“When I was younger my brother was playing for Oldham,” Trippier said. “He was League One and League Two, and he’s the one I looked up to.
“I used to go and watch him every week, watching his training sessions at Oldham, playing there, kicking it against the wall.
“I just looked up to my brother because he was a professional and he was the one I wanted to follow.
“Unfortunately, he is not playing now, but he’s the one who has helped me a hell of a lot. He was a full-back. He was a right-back and left-back.
“He played a few games in the Football League and he’s had a big impact on my career.”
A number of Trippier’s family members will be out in Russia for the quarter-final having watched the Colombia triumph back in Summerseat, where a 20ft-high flagpole displays a huge St George’s Cross with ‘Trippier 2’ on it.
“For so long we didn’t win a penalty shootout and the joy of our fans back home, it was incredible,” he said.
“All the boys sense it and want to win more games to let the fans celebrate like they did and give them happiness, and hopefully Saturday we can do that.”