SUNSPORT’S World Cup columnists Jack Wilshere, Tony Adams and Harry Redknapp kicked off the countdown to Qatar 2022 with a Q&A night in front of fans.
The trio were joined by former England star Ledley King, with our Head of Sport SHAUN CUSTIS asking the questions . . .
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON A WINTER WORLD CUP?
ADAMS: I got out in time from Strictly Come Dancing so I could concentrate on watching the games!
It’s perfect timing and I’m going to be glued to every game.
Come on, England — let’s hope they can go further than I did on Strictly!
REDKNAPP: It’s strange, isn’t it? We all get ready for summer coming, a World Cup, book our holidays around it and want to watch as many games as we can but I just find it strange.
IS THE DEFENCE ENGLAND’S WEAK LINK AT THE TOURNAMENT AND SHOULD HARRY MAGUIRE START?
WILSHERE: I’d play a back four to face Iran but should we look for momentum and go with a three?
You worry about Harry Maguire in a two, Luke Shaw at wing-back and Trent Alexander-Arnold the same.
Against Iran you might get away with it but against better teams we have to go with a back five.
As a manager you have your favourites, players you think you can rely on and Maguire is obviously one of them, so I can see why he has taken him.
He is obviously a leader in that group but I don’t think he can play.
If he does, we have to play a back three or five.
Maguire is not even playing, at least Ben White is. I’d have included Fikayo Tomori and no Maguire.
REDKNAPP: Southgate will never leave Maguire out, there’s no danger of that — he absolutely loves him.
He has never let him down. I think he’s certain to start. He has his group that he believes and trusts in.
IS THIS BUKAYO SAKA’S TIME TO SHINE AFTER OVERCOMING HIS PENALTY MISS AT THE EUROS?
ADAMS: He can redeem himself on penalties like Stuart Pearce did at the Euros. Going forwards, we are the best in the world. Saka is on fire!
He’s pulling Arsenal up to the top of the league, creating goals, scoring goals. He’s a magnificent player so I am positive.
REDKNAPP: If not, he can always get a pizza advert! Stuart Pearce and Gareth Southgate got a Pizza Hut advert after their penalty misses.
DOES GARETH SOUTHGATE DESERVE THE CRITICISM FOR ENGLAND’S STUTTERING FORM?
KING: Gareth has brought that love back between the fans and players, which has been missing. During my time there was a disconnect. Gareth understands the youngsters. It’s a group that people like and can get behind. We should be proud of them.
REDKNAPP: The criticism of him over the penalty-takers was fair. That was an almighty blunder he made to bring on a couple of kids who had not even warmed up to take penalties. It was strange beyond belief.
WILSHERE: He is what everyone sees, a calm, nice guy and good man- manager. He didn’t give me a chance but he was nice!
I got injured at the wrong time. He spoke to me, was honest and clear.
It’s tough, he will be under big pressure at this tournament. There’s negativity around the team so the first game is massive.
In 2018, it was tough to watch because I wanted to be there, I was annoyed. Me and Southgate never quite had that connection.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GO TO A WORLD CUP?
ADAMS: I was clean, sober and free as a bird in France 1998 and it was wonderful. When we went down to ten men against Argentina in Saint-Etienne with the atmosphere, I thought, “Oh my God.”
But before that I was so serene and at peace and loved every minute — apart from not being skipper! Glenn Hoddle gave it to Alan Shearer.
The lads played golf every single day and I was thinking, “Lads, rest up, we have a game tomorrow so chill out.” But I didn’t have the power when I wasn’t skipper.
KING: From 2007 I put England to the side to focus on my club. I’d often break down with muscle injuries. Before the 2010 World Cup, Tottenham qualified for the Champions League and it was the first time I felt confident in my body that I could do it.
I knew there was a lot of pressure on me from people saying, “Why are you taking him?”
I played two warm-up games fine but in the first game against the USA I felt my groin go.
I managed to struggle through the first half because I just couldn’t bear to take myself off the pitch. I knew there would be so many people saying, “I told you, you shouldn’t have taken him.”
I cheated my way through and I knew then that was it for my World Cup so it was really bitter-sweet.
It’s every young boy’s dream to represent your country at a World Cup