England vs Ireland: Five things we learned as Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish thrive in Wembley friendly


Sancho finds his shooting boots

Jadon Sancho is yet to score in the Bundesliga this season, with his only two goals for Borussia Dortmund coming in the German Cup and the Champions League. But here he showed his eye for goal is as sharp as ever, cutting in from the left, dropping a shoulder, before drilling low through a crowd of white shirts and into the far corner. Sancho was on the fringes for large parts of the first half, but it is worth remembering the winger is still only 20 and still learning his trade at international level. This was another promising step on that road to becoming an essential England pick, and he has undoubtedly secured himself more minutes in the upcoming Nations League fixtures against Belgium and Iceland.

Grealish keeps knocking on the door

Implicit in Jack Grealish’s decision to represent England and not the Republic of Ireland was that Aston Villa captain backed himself wholeheartedly to break into the team and stay there. We know now that he was absolutely right and this was yet more confirmation, if it were needed. His final decision wasn’t always perfect, delaying a pass on one occasion and losing the ball when he might have put Dominic Calvert-Lewin in, but more often than not he injected life into England’s attack. His first-half highlight was a stunning pass to set Sancho through on goal, while his dribbling was constantly menacing. The question now is whether Gareth Southgate sees him as just a useful pick in friendlies, or someone more impactful.

Pickford still England’s No1

One of the more unexpected pieces of insight this week came from England goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson, who went into unusual and fascinating detail into the pros and cons of the three goalkeepers’ techniques. It may not have been welcomed in the England camp, however, as Jordan Pickford in particular was picked apart. Here there was little for either Nick Pope or debutant Dean Henderson to work with in order to impress Southgate or Margetson, and all we learnt was that their roles in this friendly suggest that despite the public critique and his wavering club form, Pickford is still very much No1 for the foreseeable future.

Read more: England vs Ireland player ratings

Southgate sends out a message

Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham made his England debut from the bench with 20 minutes to go to become the third youngest England ever, with only Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott younger than his 17 years and 136 days. Of course Gareth Southgate must rate the youngster highly, but it also felt like a pointed message, a way of telling young talented Englishman to go and play, whether than be in the Championship or the Bundesliga, and not just to sit on a Premier League bench.

Stiffer tests lie ahead

Ireland were depleted in terms of resources here, with Callum Robinson, Shane Long and Aaron Connolly among those that were unavailable, meaning the 19-year-old Norwich striker Adam Idah had to lead the line on his own. This was largely a collection of Football League players taking on mostly Champions League stars, and there will be much stiffer tests to come for England, starting with the world’s No1 ranked team, Belgium, this weekend. 

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