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Gareth Southgate has warned disgraced duo Mason Greenwood and Phi Foden to brace themselves for a public storm all of their own making.
The two 'Covidiots' are heading home in shame from Iceland after breaking the squad's lockdown bubble by taking two women back to the team hotel in Reykjavik in the wake of England's 1-0 win in the Nations League.
The moment of madness will thrust the rising stars of English football into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons – less than a week before the new Premier League season starts.
Missing tomorrow's clash with Denmark in Copenhagen is the least of their worries ahead of what will be a stinging backlash from the nation.
Our international cricketers made great sacrifices this summer to ensure two Test series could take place on home soil, but Foden and Greenwood have not had the wit to follow the same rules at the first time of asking – just a few hours after making their Three Lions debuts.
But Southgate admits Foden, 20 and 18-year-old Greenwood have brought it all on themselves and will have to take it on the chin.
He said: "Everybody has to understand their responsibility. The whole country knows this has been a difficult period for young people – and young people are going to make more mistakes than older people.
"But everybody has a responsibility with this virus to play their part. We have kept things secure. It has been such a massive operation across Europe and I think the responsibilities are very clear.
"I'm very conscious that these two boys are going to walk into something that's going to be very intense, and very difficult for them at their age to deal with.
"Whether people like it or not, I've got to try and support them through that and I've got to try and not add to how difficult their situation is going to be.
"That said, I'm very clear with them and I will be very clear with them on my feelings and how they need to respond, how they need to react."
The revelations are a huge blow to Southgate as he continues to learn the harsh realities and pressures that come with being England boss.
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Southgate prides himself on being someone who can keep his stars in line – and has drilled into them the huge responsibilities that come with being heroes and icons to millions.
But in the past few months he has seen Kyle Walker break lockdown rules twice, Harry Maguire given a suspended prison sentence in Greece after being found guilty of fighting and attempting to bribe police and now two players he believes will be future superstars blatantly ignore guidelines put in place to protect the national team and all its staff.
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Southgate's own reputation is now on the line and right now, leading England to the glory of a World Cup semi final in 2018 will feel like a lifetime ago.
He added: "You're in a position where you're answerable pretty directly to the Government, you're in a situation where you're dealing with the royal family, dealing with the nation, you happen to be a spokesman for the nation.
"That's the task I took on and I knew that when I took the role, which is why I was slightly reticent. I was more worried about the implications for my own family really rather than just me.
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"I'm big enough and experienced to deal with whatever's said and will continue to do so. Whatever decision you take, some people will agree with and some will disagree.
"You have to live with that and in the role of this responsibility there are innumerable privileges, to manage your country, to lead your country and wear the Three Lions is an unbelievable honour. That comes with a lot of other difficulties – and I'm prepared to accept that."
- Gareth Southgate
- England Football Team
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