Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand believe England manager Gareth Southgate “has earned the right” to more respect

England legends Lineker and Ferdinand have expressed their support for Gareth Southgate’s strategy as the Three Lions’ group stage approaches its conclusion – but understand fans’ frustration.

After an entertaining 6-2 victory over Iran in the opener many fans, pundits and former players alike were left disenchanted with the 0-0 draw against the USA that lacked the same attacking intent shown in the opener.

Gary Lineker claimed Gareth Southgate “made subs just to make sure he didn’t lose” – but also defended the England manager’s decision to do so.

“It’s not what I would do… but I understood why he did it,” said Lineker on the VIBE with FIVE podcast.

The withdrawal of Jude Bellingham – who scored his first England goal in the Three Lions’ opening fixture against Iran – in exchange for Jordan Henderson caused the most ire amongst England fans.

“I didn’t love it, it was a little bit frustrating.”

But the face of BBC Sport’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2022 added that fans will soon forget this disappointment if England go deep into the tournament.

“Once the knockouts start it doesn’t matter how you played against the USA in the second game in the group stage,” he said.

“If you are in the knockouts – then it’s different.”

The former Leicester, Barcelona and England striker also wondered out loud about the mettle of England’s boss when the going inevitably gets tough as the tournament progresses.

“Will he be bold enough to turn a game round when it’s not going well? We will see!”

Looking ahead to tonight’s game against Wales, 81-cap centre-back Ferdinand backed the boss to push for a positive result – in contrast to the reserved style of play fans saw against the Americans.

Speaking on the BBC’s World Cup Daily podcast, he said: “To think that he’ll put out a weakened team for this occasion, I just think goes against the grain of what would make you a team that would be a contender to win this tournament,”

“We have to trust him. He’s done things that only Sir Alf Ramsey has done better.”

Both footballing legends turned pundits agreed that the public should have more faith in the England boss.

“I think he’s earned that right to be trusted,” said Ferdinand.

Meanwhile, Lineker said: “Whatever you say, whatever you think, Gareth Southgate has absolutely earned the right to succeed or indeed fail.”

By Nathan Blackwood

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