David James On Gaming During International Breaks, England's Group Stage So Far, And More

David James On Gaming During International Breaks, England's Group Stage So Far, And More
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Written by 

Jake Bannister

Posted 

29th Nov 2022 09:38

When looking back at iconic English players, David James is on that list. With over 53 international caps and appearing in 3 different World Cups, it's safe to say there are not many better who can speak on England's World Cup. We spoke with the Liverpool, Portsmouth, West Ham, and Man City legend on the tournament so far, what's next for many players in the squad, and more.

We’re now on the verge of the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup, so we wanted to ask you whether video games played a huge part in any free time you had between games when you were at a major tournament previously?

Yes. I remember England squad’s where we played more handheld games than consoles, but the lads would play SOCOM, which is similar to Call of Duty. It was quite magical because in the physio, there would be three or four lads getting treatment and then there would be a gathering where it seemed like half the squad was there. They’d be chatting away playing SOCOM and having a very social gathering.

In between games that was something we would do and sometimes there were people in there neither playing games or getting treatment, they just wanted to be involved in the social interaction. In so many different ways, those sort of things helped calm the nerves and unite the players. It was all very positive.

How important are activities, such as playing video games, for relieving pressure whilst away at a major tournament?

Very much so. At some tournaments we’d have game rooms and at Euro 2004, in Portugal, we had a golf simulator as well as arcade games. Some of the lads would go in there more than myself. The physio’s room was more of a hub than the actual games room. I haven’t seen many of the images of where the England team are staying in Qatar, but back when I was playing, the physio room was a place where half the squad would be in there. It definitely helped the lads.

In the likelihood that England qualify for the knockout stages, when you won’t be able to rest players, what would your starting XI be? Would Phil Foden be in there for you? Do you believe Gareth Southgate could look back and regret not being able to accommodate him in the side more?

I’d have Jordan Pickford in goal, John Stones and Harry Maguire as the centre-back pairing and Luke Shaw at left-back. If Kyle Walker was fully fit, then I’d have him over Kieran Trippier. You’d need to have Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham as the two in central midfield, and then I’d have Bukayo Saka on the right of midfield, Jack Grealish on the left, Marcus Rashford up top and Phil Foden in behind him.

There is a logic behind this, and I’m not saying that Gareth Southgate has got his selection wrong, but regarding choosing Marcus Rashford ahead of Harry Kane, I’ve been looking at the progression of Rashford this season and more importantly, when he came on against Iran I saw a hungry, capable player, which I’ve seen him be for Manchester United this season. He was given very limited time against the USA, which was a very difficult game, but I think if you start him then you’re going to have success.

Regarding Phil Foden, I think if you have Jack Grealish on the left of midfield, Kyle Walker at right-back and John Stones at centre-back, then all of a sudden he’s got some familiarity around him. The more Manchester City players that Phil Foden’s playing around, then the more you’re going to get out of him. If you look at the Manchester City side that Phil Foden plays in, then you can argue that it’s better than England’s, or any other side competing in the World Cup for that matter. If you want to get the best out of Phil Foden, then give him some familiarity.

Against Wales tonight, Harry Kane has allegedly told Gareth Southgate that he wants to play. Do you believe this is a smart move? Or do you believe that he needs to be rested to give him the appropriate amount of time to recover from the knock he received against Iran?

I think he needs to rest. Looking at it from a logical position that he’s the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner, he’s a proven England talent and he will be needed if England are to be successful in this World Cup. England will need to lose by four goals to be eliminated from the competition, so you could argue that you could start either Marcus Rashford or Callum Wilson ahead of Harry Kane.

By starting Marcus Rashford in particular, it gives England the opportunity to earn some valuable minutes as they may need to start him in matches later down the line as the competition progresses. If England do change it around for the Wales game, and they have a better game than they’ve had so far, then it gives Gareth the chance to use that side as an option going into the first knockout game.

It’s all about building confidence. It’s well-documented that Gareth has a core element of six or seven players that he’s unlikely to change, however, if there’s something else that’s working better, then it can cause confusion for the opposition. At the moment, if you know that there’s a main spine through that team and you know who’s going to be picked, then it allows you as the opposition to know what you’re coming up against.

You’ve previously told us about how much you admire the maturity shown by Jude Bellingham. At some point in the future do you expect him to be England captain?

Yes. I think the fact that he’s already captained Borussia Dortmund suggests that he has the capabilities of being an England captain. I’m not comparing Borussia Dortmund to England, but what I mean is that he’s around his club teammates everyday. It’s not just about his footballing talent but it’s also about his character. If he has the character type where his daily work colleagues respect him enough to have him as a captain, then I would imagine that he would have that same respect from his England teammates. If he can continue his performances and he can get better, then what a player we’ve got. He’s definitely captain material.

For Germany on Sunday evening, Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala was the star as his side clinched a 1-1 draw with Spain. Jamal played for England from under 16 level to under 21 level. How much will the English FA regret letting him slip through their fingers?

They can’t regret it because at the end of the day it’s his choice. They never really had any control over what he was going to do. It’s a testament to both Musiala and Jude Bellingham that they’ve gone over to Germany and done so well.

The Bundesliga is nowhere near as strong as the Premier League, so in some way you can argue that they’ve gone to a somewhat easier league to get their experience. Watching them both at the World Cup, then you could think that they’d play in the Premier League equally as well. Playing in the Bundesliga has allowed them to both develop quicker and I had Musiala down as being one of the top goalscorers at the World Cup considering what he’s been doing with Bayern Munich.

Unfortunately for him, Germany hasn't been the side that a lot of people expected them to be, and therefore Musiala hasn’t had the opportunities to score as often as you’d expect. He and Bellingham both have a good chance of winning the young player of the tournament as long as their respective sides progress far in the competition.

We spoke about Jude Bellingham earlier, and I know we’ve asked you a lot about speculation regarding his future, but for the first time, Manchester City are the bookmakers favourites to sign the England sensation. You look at the abundance of talent in Manchester City’s midfield, would Bellingham go straight in there and command a place? Would he develop into a world-beater under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola?

The five substitute rule has fundamentally changed the opportunities for players now, to the point where more players are being afforded a greater amount of gametime. I personally believe it’s disruptive to the game but if you look at Manchester City, pretty much every player played 27 or so games, with only Ederson, Rodri and Bernardo Silva being the only individuals to play 30 games or more. Everyone else was sharing the same amount of games.

If Jude was to go to Manchester City then he would get his gametime, whether he’s a nailed on starter is another issue. Look at Kevin De Bruyne, a player that many people consider one of the best, if not the best, players in the world and he doesn’t start every game for Manchester City. He will get game time. Will he become a world-beater? When you’re playing around players of the calibre that Manchester City have got, then you’re going to reach your maximum potential. Jude is a 19-year-old, and playing the way he is, if he’s going to get better then he is going to be a world-class player. Simple as that.

Liverpool are also said to be monitoring Declan Rice’s performances for England at the World Cup. He’s obviously been linked with Chelsea too. Now considering that West Ham have had a disappointing Premier League campaign, by their standards over the last few seasons, do you believe West Ham’s poor form could mean that Declan’s price will drop and make him more attainable for the Premier League’s biggest clubs?

Not at all because it’s a business decision. West Ham losing Declan Rice would be massive and I think if the club was to sell him for less than the fans expect, then that wouldn’t only lose the club money but it would lose them faith with their supporters. West Ham still have plenty of time to make their season a decent one and at this moment in time it’s about keeping the fans on side, and keeping Declan is a big part of that.

Theoretically, he could leave in January depending on how amazing a World Cup he has. If he’s to leave, then it has to be for market value. I can’t see West Ham selling him for less at all.

The fan in me just wants him to stay at West Ham for the rest of his career. As a footballer, at the end of your career, you can look back and think whether you’ve made the right decisions during it. The idea of him being a one-club man could hold him in better stead when he’s finished playing football, however, the player side of me believes you need to maximise everything you can get from the game.

When you have that talent, the idea of him joining somebody like Liverpool and playing in the Champions League means that you can look back at your career knowing that you’ve challenged for, and won major trophies. It all depends on what person you are.

I’d like to think that he wouldn’t want to force himself out of West Ham. I believe it would come down to an open and realistic conversation and I don’t think West Ham would stand in his way if the opportunity arrives for him to join a Champions League competing team. Whatever happens, I hope it comes down to a negotiation that everybody’s happy with.

Fábio Carvalho, an exciting young prospect on the books at Liverpool, recently pulled out of Portugal’s under-21 squad by text, which has now led to speculation that he is considering switching his international allegiance back to England where he was formerly a youth international. If he was to switch back, do you believe he would play a big role for England in the future?

Yes. He’s a very exciting young player. Using Aaron Ramsdale as an example, I know that Matt Turner has been playing for them in the Europa League, but he’s a player that’s involved in European competition and he’s expected to compete in it for the next few seasons the way that Arsenal are going. He, like Fábio Carvalho, is a player that’s going to benefit from playing against the best teams in world football on a more regular basis.

If Gareth Southgate has players available to him who are playing at that high a level, then you’d argue that they can only improve the value of the squad.

Chelsea are reported to be scouting England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford at the World Cup. Do his performances for club and country this season highlight that he deserves a move to a club challenging for major honours? Do you believe he’s outgrown Everton?

I think Aaron Ramsdale has proven that the quality of the team around you will influence the quality of your performances. He’s a potential number-one for his country because he’s playing for a much better side. Jordan Pickford, when he’s playing for England, plays how he would if he played for a big side in the Premier League. It’s a no-brainer for me that he’s good enough to play for a team such as Chelsea or Manchester City. He’s shown he has the capabilities to play for a huge club such as those as he can do it for England.

Would he go to Chelsea? Kepa has shown that he’s capable of being a top player in a top team. Why not Manchester United? Jordan Pickford plays for Everton and Manchester United are just down the road. If he went there, his off-field disruption would be minimal compared to whether he moved down to London.

If I was to suggest a side that he should go to, and even though Manchester United aren’t playing in the Champions League at the moment, if they signed somebody like Jordan Pickford then you could argue that would give them the ability to compete at a better level.

Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United has made an impact for his club during November, winning the club’s player of the month award. Rumours are suggesting that the club are looking to increase his wages from £5,000-a-week to £50,000-a-week in order of tying him down to a new long-term deal. Do you believe giving a player so young a 900% increase in wages, so suddenly after his introduction to the first-team, can impact his development and have a negative effect on his mentality?

The fact that Garnacho is an 18-year-old and reportedly on £5,000-a-week, then if he was going to be corrupted, then £5,000-a-week would have already corrupted him. That’s not to say that £50,000-a-week isn’t going to put him in a different place, but if he was going to be corrupted, then it would have happened already.

I don’t think many people know an 18-year-old that’s earning over a quarter of a million pounds a year. If he’s made his way into the Manchester United first-team, then the ingredients of a quality player are already there. I hope he has a lot of good people around him advising him on what to do with that extra £45,000-a-week. Providing that he does have the right people advising him, then that allows him to concentrate on his football.

I don’t know the man at all, but if he is money driven, then £50,000-a-week may mean that he’ll soon want £100,000-a-week, which in that case will drive him on to play better. If he was on £500-a-week and then suddenly went to £50,000-a-week, then you may have a problem, but he’s a young player, earning a large sum of money already and still producing good football, so I’d like to think that signing a £50,000-a-week deal is not going to corrupt him.

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