John Barnes fears England have become ‘cocky’ but believes Czech Republic defeat may work to Gareth Southgate’s advantage

Former Liverpool forward John Barnes fears England have become ‘cocky’ but has backed the Three Lions to bounce back from their disappointing defeat to the Czech Republic.

The Three Lions blew the chance to seal Euro 2020 qualification with three matches to spare as the Czechs capitalised on the visitors’ listless performance in Prague.

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Barnes believes England have become complacent

It was the first time England have lost a World Cup or European Championship qualifying match in 10 years.

Former England winger Barnes said “It wasn’t the greatest of performances, but it terms of the consistency they have shown over the last two years they have been fantastic.

“I think what helped was that from the outset with Gareth Southgate, we were told we have to give them time to develop and support them. We weren’t putting any expectations on them, then they played with freedom and showed what they can do.

“Maybe subconsciously because of what has happened to them in the last year or so, we are now saying we are going to win the Euros, that they are fantastic, and maybe subconsciously they kind of took their eye off the prize a bit and may have become a bit cocky.

“I don’t think it was a conscious effort and I really believe last night can work in our favour in just bringing us down to earth, to say ‘we’re not the finished article, we still have a lot of work to do, let’s continue to work with humility.’

“I think because of the success they’ve had, they have probably got a little bit complacent. So this is not a bad thing to happen now. It is just a little bit of a wake-up call for us to maybe concentrate on trying to be a little bit more together and humble.”

Barnes thinks England, who remain top of Group A, need to defend better as a team.

“We need everybody to work harder to help the defence,” the 55-year-old said.

“I think that was apparent even when we won 5-3 (against Kosovo in the previous match). For me, if you talk about one place where we need to improve, it’s not in our defence in terms of the back four, it is the way we defend as a team.”

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England underperformed in Prague
Getty Images – Getty

England’s next match is against Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday, and there has been plenty of talk about the potential for racist abuse towards the visiting players in that match.

Southgate has talked about how “everybody is clear” with regard to UEFA’s three-step protocol for such situations, while England striker Tammy Abraham has suggested the team could defy that by making their own decision to walk off the pitch.

When asked about that, Barnes said: “What England should do is go and win the match, play the game and deal with whatever happens (when it) happens, rather than try to preempt something negative.

“I’m not a fan of walking off the field, but if that is what they have decided to do, that is what they should do if they feel like that is the solution. I don’t think that is the solution, but if they decide as a group that is what they want to do, then that is what they should do.”

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