Gary Neville defends Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood over Iceland hotel incident: ‘They’re young lads, not robots’

Gary Neville has defended young England duo Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood after they breached coronavirus protocols last week following the national side’s victory over Iceland.

England defeated the hosts 1-0 in the Nations League on Saturday before debutants Foden and Greenwood were sent home on Monday after an incident on Sunday evening. Photos from an Icelandic news article appeared to show Foden, 20, and Greenwood, 18, with some women in a room at the team hotel.

Manchester City midfielder Foden and United forward Greenwood apologised but missed England’s trip to Denmark – where Gareth Southgate’s side drew 0-0 on Tuesday night – after the Three Lions’ coach called the duo “naive” while insisting he still needs to support the youngsters through what could be a period of “intense” criticism.

Neville, who represented both England and United as a player, told Sky Sports that he understands Southgate’s approach.

“I mean, at this moment in time, I’m sure [Foden and Greenwood] will be feeling awful,” he said. “We have seen both of their apologies, obviously being removed from the squad is something that you never want during your career. But always, whether it be any incident over the last 10 years on TV, you always have to go back into player mode when you are in that dressing room.

“Mistakes you have made in life, that you’ve seen team-mates make. They need love right now. They’re young lads, they aren’t robots. Anybody at home who has been 18, 19, 20 would have either themselves or seen a friend of theirs do something like that in their life; breaching discipline, let yourself down, have a fight.

“I get it, it’s not ideal – they’ve made a mistake, a big mistake. They’ll regret it and they’ll pay for it. But they are two talented individuals, they live on the edge, they live off adrenaline, the buzz and their lives are fast. We can slate them, slag them off, all those things they know are true, but there also has to be a level of tolerance over what they are.

“Yes, they are representing their country and they will feel really bad. They will feel more gutted when their team-mates are running out on the pitch. They’ll feel like the whole world is coming down around them – it’s not.

“We have seen situations like this 100 times; in six months’ time, it won’t get mentioned that much. Six years’ time no one will remember it. They have to remember that tonight. They will still be loved by their team-mates. The reality is they are young kids.”

Neville’s former England team-mate and fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher also expressed sympathy for Foden and Greenwood.

“I’m with Gary,” the former Liverpool defender said. “I’ve been sent home from an England squad before, under-21s.

“Obviously different circumstances, four or five of us sent home, had to move away from the squad. We weren’t punished after – this was more a drinking situation after a game. We spoke to the manager, apologised and were back in the squad.

“I think the lads may find it tough to get themselves back in the next squad [though]. Gareth will want to put a marker down there. There have been situations in the past with him involving [Wayne] Rooney, [Raheem] Sterling and [Joe] Gomez.

“So there may be some punishment to come, but it won’t be set in stone. I do think they will be used in the Euros, they are two of the best young English players coming through. And just because you are good, your mistakes shouldn’t be forgotten, but just keep their head down and let their football do the talking.”

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