Jenas: Southgate must avoid regrets at Euro 2024; Bellingham’s form a concern

Jenas: Southgate must avoid regrets at Euro 2024; Bellingham’s form a concern

It is the morning after England’s drab goalless draw against Slovenia when Mail Sport meets Jermaine Jenas in Cologne. Jenas, 41, was on BBC commentary duties for the game alongside Guy Mowbray and instantly expresses his feelings.

‘It’s disappointment more than anything,’ he says. ‘Clearly, Gareth doesn’t know what he wants from the team. The biggest positive was the substitutions – Kobbie Mainoo looks like an international footballer with the way he plays and Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon gave England a spark. If I’m Gareth, I’m thinking this is it now. Go out with no regrets. So I’d like to see more changes,’ insists Jenas.

England take on Slovakia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday for a place in the quarter-final but Jenas won’t be there.

Instead, the former England international will be over 5,000 miles away in Portland, covering the penultimate weekend of the Formula E season.

This year alone, Jenas has led TNT Sports coverage of the Formula E World Championship and hosted The One Show on BBC alongside Alex Jones.

Jermaine Jenas has told England manager Gareth Southgate (pictured) to leave Euro 2024 with ‘no regrets’

England have largely underwhelmed in the group stages at Euro 2024 and face Slovakia on Sunday

England have largely underwhelmed in the group stages at Euro 2024 and face Slovakia on Sunday

Since playing his last game in 2014, working in media has provided him with countless opportunities but he admits that even though he misses playing football, he does not miss aspects of the game and can relate to how the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher are feeling right now.

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‘Has he (Southgate) lost two players in Trent and Gallagher because I’d be fuming and thinking, “Why am I the one that’s suffering? I’m not the only one who didn’t play well,” Jenas says. 

‘I remember a game against Argentina in Geneva. Michael Owen scored a hat-trick but I’ll never forget that I was on the bench with Michael Carrick. In centre mid that day was Ledley King. That’s the past but the point is you know how it feels when you think you’re the guy who should be in that position. 

‘Even when Trent came on at right back against Slovenia, you sensed that he wasn’t happy from his body language. One of the biggest problems too is the Jude Bellingham situation. 

‘He looks like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and maybe he needs a rest. Right now, it’s a lot of very good players not gelling together and that’s the synergy between my generation and this generation.’

Jenas won 21 caps for England between 2003 and 2009 and went to the 2006 World Cup but his playing career was cut short due to a recurring knee injury.

‘I remember getting to the end of my career and not knowing what to do. The moment I found out I had to retire was the toughest of my career,’ he says. I kept going to see specialists before one surgeon said someone needs to tell you that you can’t play football anymore and you need to move on with your life. 

‘It was too early and I was so angry but I had lots of support and I had to just get off the grass,’ Jenas admits.

Conor Gallagher was withdrawn after just 45 minutes of England's 1-1 draw with Slovenia

Conor Gallagher was withdrawn after just 45 minutes of England’s 1-1 draw with Slovenia

In a sense, working in live television has provided him with a semblance of the thrill that he got from playing.

‘Luckily the media stuff kicked off and to this day, it’s a bit of a daze how I’m doing it all. I’m meeting people I never thought I’d meet – like I’ve got Tom Hanks on my sofa and we’ve had Dolly Parton on The One Show. It’s insane. 

‘Even conducting the 2022 World Cup – it’s not an easy gig! From doing live tele every day, you deal with pressure and it’s the one thing I miss from football – that feeling of standing in the tunnel and not knowing what’s going to happen. That adrenaline rush you get in the tunnel, you just can’t match. Live TV gave me a dose of that,’ says Jenas.

For the lad who grew up on a council estate in Nottingham, he knows he is a role model but admits that he never foresaw his career taking such a path.

Jenas admitted that the pressure on Bellingham makes it 'look like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders'

Jenas admitted that the pressure on Bellingham makes it ‘look like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders’

JERMAINE JENAS’ ENGLAND XI V SLOVAKIA 

Formation: (4-2-3-1): Pickford

Walker Stones Guehi Gomez

Rice Mainoo

Saka Foden Gordon

Kane

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‘One of the things that gives me comfort is that I only had one dream ever and that was to be a professional footballer. John Barnes was my hero growing up. I loved watching Liverpool as a kid and I’d go watch Forest play and dream of playing professional football,’ he says. 

‘I was in Essen recently and saw Stuart Pearce in the gym. When I was a ballboy at Forest, they played Bayern Munich in the UEFA cup and I remember Pearcey flying up and down the left wing and thinking this is so fast. That memory always sticks with me. I got to do that. Everything else is just a bonus,’

Jenas will return to Germany for the quarters. Whether England will still be here remains to be seen.

‘With the draw they have, they can win it but I don’t see it. England have to find some cohesion. You’ll know 15 minutes into the next game if we have a chance.’

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