Euro 2016: England must play without fear - Michael Owen

Owen on fear, John Stones and Marcus Rashford
Euro 2016
Host: France Dates: 10 June to 10 July
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC TV, BBC Radio, the BBC Sport website and app. Live text commentary on every game on BBC Sport website.

Former England striker Michael Owen has told the current squad to play without fear at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side begin their campaign against Russia on 11 June, before facing Wales and Slovakia.

"Forget who's going to cost us," Owen, who represented England at five major tournaments, told BBC Sport.

"There's almost a fear of being 'the one' - and that then turns into a selfish attitude. You can't be expressive, you can't be creative."

England's Euro 2016 Group B schedule
FixtureVenueDate & timeBBC coverage
v RussiaMarseilles11 June, 20:00 BSTITV, BBC Radio 5 live
v WalesLens16 June, 14:00BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 live
v SlovakiaSaint-Etienne20 June, 20:00ITV, BBC Radio 5 live
Live text commentary on every game on BBC Sport website

In an interview with BBC Sport's David Ornstein, the 36-year-old added: "There will be one person that everyone's going to gang up on - the press, the media, whatever - but you've got to be bigger than that, not bothered about that and actually just do what's best for the team.

"There's been a fear over the years because we all see someone missing a penalty or someone getting sent off and costing the team.

"The whole country then almost gangs up on that player.

"There's a fear amongst the squad - or there certainly was in my time - whereby you just didn't want to be that person everybody castigates, gets vilified, and you're the one that misses a penalty and they make a pizza advert about you."

Gareth Southgate featured in an advert for Pizza Hut after Euro 96 following England's semi-final exit to eventual tournament winners Germany.

The host nation went out after the then Aston Villa defender was the only player to miss a penalty in the shootout after the game at Wembley had finished 1-1 following extra time.

At the 1998 World Cup in France, midfielder David Beckham was sent off against Argentina for kicking out at Diego Simeone before England exited on penalties at the last-16 stage.

Then in 2006 at the World Cup in Germany, striker Wayne Rooney was dismissed for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho as England went out in the quarter-finals, again after a penalty shootout.

Owen on John Stones

John Stones
John Stones made his England debut in 2014 and has 10 England caps

Everton's John Stones - one of only three recognised centre-backs in England's 23-man squad - has faced criticism for the way he plays the game, often preferring to dribble his way out of trouble rather than clear the ball.

But Owen has strongly defended the 22-year-old and said: "This kid could play for Barcelona.

"He's probably the only player in the England squad who could walk into Barcelona's team at the moment.

"He's absolutely brilliant. Get behind him, believe in him."

Owen said some of the negativity surrounding Stones was because he is "so much better than most other players".

The former Liverpool, Newcastle United, Real Madrid and Manchester United forward added: "People just don't realise that a lot of it is under control. He will make the odd mistake but so will everyone - everyone just goes on and on and on about mistakes.

"Eventually someone might start getting into his head and he might not be the player he should because of this negativity that surrounds our country so often."

Owen on Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford scored on his England debut against Australia
Marcus Rashford scored on his England debut against Australia

Striker Marcus Rashford, 18, only made his Manchester United debut in February but has enjoyed a meteoric rise since then.

Owen, who was just 18 when he played in the 1998 World Cup, thinks Rashford will cope at Euro 2016 but says it will be hard for him to escape the hype and expectation.

"Every game that I played I scored - and I just thought it's not going to be any different going to a World Cup," said Owen.

"That naivety is the best attribute you can have. People that are scarred, that have failed maybe at a big tournament, have always got a niggling doubt. That naivety is almost priceless.

"The problem now is we're living in a different day and age.

"Glenn Hoddle was the manager in 1998 and we were locked down, bolted down. We didn't know about anything in newspapers and if mobile phones were invented I didn't have one.

"We knew nothing. No-one was allowed to visit our hotel.

"Nowadays, someone like Rashford will be on his mobile phone in his room, reading all of social media, all the newspapers, all of what everybody is saying. He's going to be aware of good, bad and indifferent.

"I was oblivious to it all. It's going to be very different for him, but it doesn't matter. When you can do something really well, you don't get nervous."

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