Tribal Football

Danny Mills exclusive: This Euros can be Bellingham's tournament

Danny Mills exclusive: This Euros can be Bellingham's tournament
Danny Mills exclusive: This Euros can be Bellingham's tournament
Danny Mills exclusive: This Euros can be Bellingham's tournamentProfimedia
Just as most of England is hoping, Danny Mills thinks Jude Bellingham will be the stand out player for the Three Lions during the Euros.

“The dynamism that he has, that ability to go box to box, to make tackles at one end, to get himself in the box and score goals and different types of goals as well at the other end. He will be pivotal to England and the way they play,” says the BBC pundit in conversation with Tribalfootball. Mills was speaking just hours before Bellingham's matchwinning performance against Serbia in Sunday's Euros opener.


“Declan Rice could be good, but holding midfield players generally don't get the headlines. Phil Foden is the best player in the Premier League, but that's playing for Manchester City and they play in a certain way and not many other teams in the world play that style of football. Bellingham has everything in his game to be there and to be the best.”


Having watched Bellingham, not least in the Champions League for the last month and a half of the season, you don’t worry he’ll be a little short on energy?

“I think he's the sort of character that wants to step up to the big stage. That's not really been an English mentality over the past, or up until the last maybe four or five years. Earlier, the Germans had that mentality. A penalty shootout was seen as a good thing, it was like 1v1, 'I'm going to show you how good I am'. The Spanish had a similar mentality. 

“Bellingham has that attitude, there's no fear, it's another challenge. He wants to prove himself against the best. He's brave enough to take on the number five number at Real Madrid. I love his mentality, he’s just, bring it on, let's go for it. And I think that's one of the things that sets him apart from everybody else.”


There are some experienced players in the England squad, but also a lot of inexperience in some places. Is there enough of the former to weigh up the latter?

“I think the balance of the team is difficult. The starting eleven should be okay, but there is a little bit of inexperience. There are some players in there where you think; how are they going to perform under pressure? What happens if we go 1-0 down in a knockout stage in a quarterfinal or semifinal? 

“Generally, a tournament is won by an average age of 26, 27 with lots of caps. And that's just a matter of experience. Experience is everything. No matter what anybody says. I was listening to Wayne Rooney and he was 18 when he started playing. He was sensational. But he was the only one of that age. 

“Everybody else was vastly experienced and he said that was huge for him. He was able to lean on them for advice. That's the only thing where England may struggle, especially in defensive areas. There are a lot of players with very few caps and not a great deal of Champions League or Championship experience.”


How far are you expecting England to progress? 

“I think semi-finals is a must. I'm not convinced on the win and that is purely because I look at the defence. We don't really have a left-back. If John Stones were to pick up an injury, and he struggled of late with injuries, our defence is very inexperienced. 

“Can you win a championship off the back of that? I would have my doubts. Tournaments are won by a solid defence. When you go back through every single tournament, no team has won anything with a poor defence. You have to have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League to win it."


You played yourself in a pretty strong team in the 2002 World Cup. What are your memories of that whole tournament?

“It was amazing. We had Ashley Cole, possibly the greatest left-back England's ever had. Rio Ferdinand, sensational. One of the world's greatest defenders. Sol Campbell, invincible. David Seaman behind. Unbelievable goalkeeper, experienced. I was probably the weak link! 

“For me, playing for your nation in a European Championship or a World Cup is the greatest sporting football moment you can have. You have to embrace it, look after it and cherish it. Because they don't come around too often as we've seen with players left out. It can soon be taken away from you. 

“Although we didn't win it, I look back and think, I performed to the best that I could. It 22 years ago now and I look back with very, very fond memories and think; I was able to achieve that. I did something that very, very few people have been able to do.”


Back in the day, you’d hear stories of players trying to sneak in the odd beer, or maybe even sneak out of the camp for a drink. Do you think that still happens today?

“No. The professionalism now is unrivalled from where it was. There are still one or two players that enjoy themselves at the right time, when they're allowed to. That's not a problem. Gareth isn't daft. If there's a right time and there's a big gap, he might let the players have a glass of wine or a couple of beers if they want to after a game to relax. But it's a couple. That's what it is. 

“I think players now are so professional at that top level. They are so dedicated. There are a lot of players that don't drink at all anymore. That's the younger generation in life as well. With people of my age, it was all about getting drunk as quickly as you could. It's quite cool not to drink in this day and age.

“I think players now know the risks. They know that they have to be physically the best they can possibly be. The standards of professionalism are so high now that players just aren't prepared to risk it.”



- Danny Mills was talking to Tribalfootball on behalf of BetVictor