DECLAN WARRINGTON / AIPS** in OLOMOUC: England manager Gareth Southgate has taken special care of Jesse Lingard over the player’s past painful year and was delighted to be vindicated with a very special goal.
Only 24 minutes into Manchester United’s first Premier League game under Louis Van Gaal last August Lingard suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for the first half of the season. To help him regain fitness he was then loaned down the league to Derby.
But Southgate never forgot the winger who came up with the late winning goal in Group B of the UEFA U21 Euro against Sweden in Moravia.
Lingard had joined the game as 55th-minute substitute after Eric Pritchard, ironically, had been injured. With five minutes to go he rifled the game’s only goal.
Southgate said: “It was a wonderful piece of individual skill that won us the game. Lingard’s an intelligent footballer, very clean feet, good movement but he’s also got a goal in him.
“He had a really bad injury in the first game of the season but we’ve kept contact with him and made sure he’s been part of our group throughout.”
England’s next fixture is on Wednesday against Italy when it is likely Lingard will return to their starting line-up. Until his superbly-struck goal he had been largely ineffective but Southgate was adamant he had planned to introduce him, with or without Pritchard’s injury.
Southgate said: “We felt that Jesse, with 20 minutes to go, would have been our second change anyway.
“It’s in our hands now. In all likelihood we’ll need to beat Italy but the momentum has started to swing with us and that’s very important in football.”
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course in the Czech Republic. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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