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Gareth Southgate warns England players against social media 'misery'

Mark Ogden shares his thoughts on Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad and who he feels the England manager will pick to be captain in Russia.
Take a look at England's squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Despite England's recent struggles, Ian Darke and the ESPN panel are cautiously optimistic about England's World Cup chances.

Gareth Southgate admits he cannot prevent his England players subjecting themselves to the "misery" of social media, but vowed to give his England players the freedom to "wind down" before and during the World Cup.

"I think it's good for the players to communicate with the fans," Southgate said. "But I think it's always important (to know) that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued, and when you're emotional, it's not a good time to do it."

Raheem Sterling billed himself as the "Hated One" during Euro 2016 after being bombarded by abusive messages online and Southgate said that his players would be wise to avoid negative comments.

"Personally I'm not sure there's value to reading comments that come in," he said. "It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally, I think there's a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life?

"But I can't ban them from looking at it, because who knows what they're doing when they go to their room. But I would make the suggestion that, is it a good idea to read all of that? If you can rationalise it and accept it and put it into its own place then fine.

"I don't know too many people who can do that, though. You can't help but think about the one bugger who gives you advice you don't want to hear, even if there are 50 good bits. On a personal level I wouldn't advise it, but I accept that it's part of life and go with it."

The hands-off approach is borne out by his readiness to hand his players the freedom to fly around the globe during the week they have off before gathering at St George's Park at the beginning of next week.

Gareth Southgate named England's World Cup squad on Wednesday.

"I'm not interested in what they do over the next few days; it's four weeks before we have a game," said Southgate, who went on to insist that his own pre-tournament preparation as a player ensures that he could not lay down rules for any of his players this week.

"Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was. But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home rather than run, though!

"Look, everything in a player's life now is 'fill this bloody form in; how do you feel?' There's a danger we overfill them with professionalism and doing the right thing. A lot of them don't drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way. I have a drink at times when I need one, maybe there will be more of that in the future, I don't know!

"But they need a switch off and I don't see an issue with it in the next three or four days. Most have gone away with their partners and they have young kids anyway. But those that don't, they are physically in good shape, they need a mental switch off."

England have friendlies against Nigeria and Costa Rica in the first week of June, then begin their World Cup campaign vs. Tunisia on June 18. Southgate has no doubts about his players being able to adjust focus as needed.

"Then when we're in, we work, it will be spot on, the work we do will be correct and the focus will be intense," he said. "But when we have those periods of having a day at home, I want them to relax and switch off. Of course, the closer we get to a tournament, then we have got to recognise the balance of all of that.

"Blimey, they get two days off with their clubs nowadays and they're jetting everywhere. That's the world they can live in because of their finance now, you see players all around the world posting pictures of they get a day off so, for me, travelling is not a big issue."

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_

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