England boss Gareth Southgate has vowed to defend youngsters Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden from harsh criticisms despite their unacceptable behaviour while on national duty.
Both players were withdrawn from the squad for breaching England’s Covid-19 guidelines by inviting girls to their hotel room in Reykjavík.
Greenwood, 18, and Foden, 20, had only just earned their first ever senior caps for England in the 1-0 Nations League win over Iceland on Saturday.
Manchester City midfielder Foden released a lengthy statement apologising for his actions, while Manchester United wonderkid Greenwood has deleted his Twitter account.
Southgate is aware of the negative vibes that will be meted out to both players, and has vowed to give them his support.
“Obviously they have been naive,” Southgate said. “I recognise their age but of course the whole world is dealing with this pandemic and there’s a responsibility on every age group to make sure that they play their part in keeping each other safe and not spreading the virus.
“We’re certainly not underestimating how important it’s been to try and maintain a bubble.
“I think the two boys are going to find themselves in a situation, because of where we are with the pandemic, which will draw a lot of judgement from afar.
“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.
“I think 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.
“So, 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 the difficulties they’ll find themselves in.
“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 and how they need to react.
“But I think that balance is important. They are two very young players and I’m very conscious of that.”