DOHA, Qatar — Marcus Rashford believes England’s poor performances under former manager Roy Hodgson were linked to substandard training sessions in which players lacked sufficient dedication.
The 25-year-old was given his debut by Hodgson just before Euro 2016 and played twice more during the tournament which ended in a humiliating last-16 exit to Iceland, costing the manager his job.
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After Sam Allardyce’s one-game tenure — for which Rashford was not selected — England have been revived under Gareth Southgate, reaching the 2018 World Cup semifinals and last year’s delayed Euro 2020 final.
England were booed off following Friday’s 0-0 draw against the United States in Qatar but remain on course to qualify from Group B, needing to avoid a four-goal defeat to Wales in Tuesday’s final match.
Asked whether players were ready to step up with Southgate expected to make changes to freshen up his side, Rashford said: “I think everyone is ready and raring to go. Training has been good for the lads that have not been getting as many minutes.
“But I feel like, for this squad, it has never really been an issue, especially since Gareth’s been managing.
“Maybe before it was a little bit of an issue in terms of quality of training and people’s dedication to training but since he’s been manager of England, it’s been good. It’s been intense, it’s been challenging and I feel like everyone, me included, is ready to do their bit when they come onto the pitch if they get an opportunity.”
Hodgson guided England to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals but they were condemned to a miserable group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Pushed to expand on his comments, Rashford added: “Obviously I was only there for a short period of time before but the standard of training wasn’t as high.
“For players, it is black and white: if you are not training well, you can’t expect to play well, you can’t expect to go into games and just win because you are better players than the other team. You have to put the work in and earn the right to win football matches. For me it is two different sides of a coin, it is as simple as that.
“There’s obviously been a clear change and a clear improvement. We’ve obviously done much better in the major tournaments but even in the games that we’ve played throughout the year with England, we’ve played better, we’ve had better results.
“It is not often I come away with England and feel like we’re going to lose games. I think as a collective, we’re very strong. The togetherness is really high and it is a big feature that Gareth puts emphasis on.
“It is something we have worked on and it has improved as time has gone on. But like I said, the main reason why we are in the position we’re in is because we have good players who are willing to work for one another and leave it all out on the pitch. In the next game, we’ll definitely look to do that.”
Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were racially abused after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy at Wembley, but the forward insisted he was ready to take a spot-kick again if asked.
“Racism is not good to go through as an individual but it’s not good to see anyone go through it,” Rashford said. “It’s more just disappointment. You’re disappointed that people have views like that.
“And the main reason is that you don’t have those views about anyone else, regardless of their race or religion. It’s more the disappointment that people are thinking those things, rather than saying them.
“I’ve missed a penalty before. You never want to miss a penalty, it’s a great opportunity for forwards especially to score goals, and obviously they’re big moment. As an individual I’ve always been comfortable with and enjoy big moment so I’m hoping I get to take another penalty in the tournament. I’m looking forward to it.”
Rashford also reiterated his admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo after it was confirmed last Tuesday that the 37-year-old’s second spell at Old Trafford was to end with immediate effect.
“Listen, it’s been an unbelievable experience to play with him,” Rashford said. “He’s obviously one of my idols and someone I’ve always looked up to. So to have the opportunity to play with him is unbelievable and I’ll take that with me and it’s something that I can keep with me forever.
“So I wish him all the best. We obviously want to thank him for the things that he’s done for Manchester United and wish him all the best in the rest of his career.”
England attitude wrong before Southgate