Jack Grealish has fired back at claims that he ducked responsibility when asked to take a penalty in England’s Euro 2020 shootout defeat to Italy.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford both missed before 19-year-old Bukayo Saka stepped up to miss the vital spot kick and see Italy crowned champions.
But there were questions why more senior players like Grealish and Raheem Sterling didn’t take one, with former Manchester United captain Roy Keane most critical.
“If you are Sterling or Grealish you cannot sit there and have a young kid go ahead of you,” Keane told ITV. “You can’t sit there. That must be hard to take. You have to get in front of the young kid and say ‘I will step up before you.’”
But Grealish has responded to those claims on social media, insisting he put his hand up to take one but head coach Gareth Southgate made the call.
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“I said I wanted to take one!!!!,” wrote Grealish. “The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”
According to the Telegraph, after the final whistle was blown, Southgate asked each taker about where they were in the order and each player responded positively.
They also claim that neither Grealish nor Sterling were up next if Saka had scored and it went to sudden death, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who took the fourth penalty in the successful shootout against Colombia in 2018, next.
Judging by what happened in the huddle before the shootout, Grealish was the seventh choice, Kalvin Phillips eighth and Luke Shaw ninth, with Raheem Sterling and John Stones the only two players he appeared to not approach about taking one.
“It’s my decision who takes the penalties,” Southgate said. “It’s not a case of players not volunteering or more experienced players backing out, as they didn’t have a chance. It was my choice, nobody else’s, it was my decision to give the penalties to the guys that took them.
“(I’ve) still got huge belief in them. Those boys have done a brilliant job and we heal together as a team now and we are there for them. I know that 99% of the public will be as well because they know how well they have played.
“Bukayo has been an absolute star in this tournament. Incredible maturity the way he has played. He’s brought smiles to people’s faces and is such a popular member of the group. I know he has everyone’s support.”