September 25, 2021

LIVE: England vs Ireland

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Both sides will be in Nations League action at the weekend, against Belgium and Wales respectively, but that has not stopped either side from unloading some talent in their starting XI tonight – and in a shock sure to set social media tongues wagging, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount both start for the hosts. Late call-up Jude Bellingham is on the bench for the Three Lions too; if he plays, he will become the nation’s third-youngest senior international in history. Ireland meanwhile have to make do without Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy; both are ruled out through injury.

England and Ireland were left in mourning in July upon the sad passing of Jack Charlton, aged 85. The one-club Leeds United centre-back remains a legendary figure for the Three Lions – as a World Cup-winning star in 1996 – but also for their rivals, who adopted the nickname Jack’s Army following his decade-long spell in charge of the national team, who he guided to three major tournaments, including a last-eight appearance at Italia 90. This match is a chance for both to honour him.

But now comes this opportunity for both managers to throw down a gauntlet to their squads. Southgate has made no bones that his Euro 2020 squad is far from finalised, and victory against their visitors could cement further chances for key performers. For Ireland, victory is needed to simply kick-start Kenny’s reign into life – but also, arguably, to honour a man much-loved on either side of the Irish Sea.

Indeed, differing fortunes followed these rivals in October. England saw the high of a win over world number one Belgium tempered by defeat to Denmark, taking Southgate’s win ratio below that of Roy Hodgson – while for Stephen Kenny, still winless in his first five games in charge, the missed chance of reaching Euro 2020 following a play-off loss to Slovakia stings his nation.

It’s only been a handful of weeks since the Three Lions last took to the turf under the arch in north-west London, but Gareth Southgate’s side will be bracing themselves for an unfamiliar opponent. It’s been five years – and two England managers – since The Boys in Green last clapped eyes on their neighbours in the British Isles; for both parties, this is more than a mere friendly today.

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the November international break, as England resume old hostilities with the Republic of Ireland in a friendly under the lights at Wembley Stadium ahead of their Nations League crunch clashes.