Gareth Southgate criticises ‘naive’ Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden after sending players home from England squad

England manager Gareth Southgate has labelled Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden ‘naive’ after they breached coronavirus protocols following the win over Iceland.

Manchester United forward Greenwood and City midfielder Foden have been sent back to their clubs and will not be involved in England’s Nations League game with Denmark on Tuesday after they allegedly spent time with two women outside of the squad’s bio-secure bubble.

Under the strict coronavirus guideline enforced by Uefa, the players are not supposed to mix with anyone outside of the designated bubble, but Southgate was keen to stress that from what he understands the two women were not brought into the areas of the team hotel where the England squad are staying.

Southgate would not be drawn on whether the incident will affect their international selection chances going forward, but he did express his disappointment with the pair’s actions that leaves the national team two players short for their game with Denmark tomorrow.

“Unfortunately this morning it was brought to my attention that two boys have broken the Covid-19 guidelines in terms of our secure bubble and so we had to decide very quickly they couldn’t have any interaction with the team, they wouldn’t be able to travel to training and given the procedures that we have to follow now they will have to travel back to England separately,” Southgate said.

“Nothing has happened in the areas that we occupy in the hotel. We’re still getting to the depths of the information as this was only brought to my attention a couple of hours before training and we’ve had to train in between, so I’m still getting to grips with the detail.

“I think at the moment I’m trying to take a lot of information in. Obviously they’ve been naive, we’ve dealt with it appropriately. I recognise their age but the whole world is dealing with this pandemic and there’s responsibility on every age group to make sure that they play their part in keeping each other safe and not spreading the virus.

“But what is clear is there was a breach of the covid guidelines. We’ve spent so long getting those measures in place and the whole squad have really followed that to the letter, we’ve had four tests in the period we’ve since coming together and the staff have done an incredible job to keep that secure and that tight.”

Greenwood and Foden will have to return home to England, and it’s understood they will now have to quarantine for 14 days as a result of the breach, which removed their elite athlete exemption. The period means they will be unable to play in their clubs’ opening games of the Premier League season in under two weeks’ time.

It also creates some doubt around England’s game with Denmark, but Southgate was adamant that the rest of the squad have remained within the guidelines and that there is no risk towards them or anyone else who they contact over the coming days.

“I’m not going into any more details until I’m clear of everything. Nobody from outside our party has been into the areas of the hotel that we are occupying,” Southgate reiterated.

“We’re very clear that no other members of our party have been in contact with those two players, and that’s why they couldn’t go to breakfast this morning or join us for training. We’re very clear that we’ve followed all the guidelines in that regard, it’s a very serious situation and we’ve treated it that way and acted as quickly as we’ve been able to.”

He added: “I’ve spent the morning dealing with this, then helping the coaches for training and preparing the team for our game tomorrow. We’ve had to make a quick decision on the situation with the boys, then we’ve got to focus on the team, but the boys can’t be with the team tomorrow.”

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