Soccer

‘Why Southgate is blameless for Rashford, Saka and Sancho penalty misses’ – ex-Gor Mahia striker Okoth

The Three Lions failed to see off the Azzurri and lift the title after they had impressive outings in the initial stages of the competition

Former Gor Mahia and Sofapaka striker Ronald Okoth has defended England’s coach Gareth Southgate for criticism he has had to deal with after losing the European Championship final to Italy on Sunday.

The Three Lions, after emerging from the previous stages unbeaten, went down to the Azzurri at Wembley Stadium as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed spot-kicks in the shoot-out.

The winner had to be determined from the penalty spot after a 1-1 draw and Italy emerged victors. Okoth believes the players should shoulder the blame instead of their manager taking criticism.

“When a team wins, it’s the players who are always given all the credit, but if a team loses, it’s always the coach who takes in all the fire and blame,” Okoth wrote on his Facebook page.

“Such is life when it comes to our gaffer life, I’m sure if it’s ‘older players’ who missed the penalties, Southgate could have still been blamed for opting to pick old legs over young fresh top talent who are on top of their games currently. If Rashford, Sancho, and Saka had scored their penalties, the trio could have been elated to immortal status.

“There’s no room for age excuses in football at the highest level. I’m sure the trio were picked to take penalties not because they are young, but because they had practised and planned for it as their game plan. Above all the top qualities they possess, what everyone is seeing is their age.

“These are players who’ve proved they belong up there with the very experienced and best. Even some of the most experienced players do bottle under pressure, it’s normal and it has nothing to do with age.”

The former KCB and Mathare United star added the English coach followed his plan only that it failed to produce desirable results in the end: “Southgate just didn’t pick them out of the blues. It was clearly a game plan but even the most experienced of players still crack under pressure and that’s what happened, even Italy’s most experienced penalty takers cracked. 

“It could have gone either way. Unfortunately, it’s the age gap excuse being used to slander a manager who clearly had his game plan in place.”

The retired striker also criticized young players who feel entitled to first-team duties because of their age.

“This ‘age gap’ theory peddled by a section of our local football fans is the reason that has made some of our ‘young talented players’ back here at home feel entitled to opportunities because they are young and get away with them because of the same reason,” he added.

“I’ve seen young players dismissed from clubs because of this same entitlement that has been put in their heads by fans ‘this one knows football’ and ‘Kenya teams only love oldies when there are young players like so and so’ and such other stories. Football does not need old or young stories.

“If you’ve proved yourself, you’ll definitely be tasked with opportunities that come with huge responsibilities. Age is just a number. It was simply a game plan that went wrong and nothing to do with ‘age.”

After their misses, Sancho, Saka, and Rashford received online racial abuse.

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