The show must go on: will Luke Show regain himself in the national team's uniform?
At Manchester United they lost faith in him, Jose Mourinho humiliated him and the injuries keep landing on him, but in the England uniform the vilified defender is still an anchor.
So why does Southgate keep a corner in his heart and what is he preparing for the replay of the Euro final in which he almost became a national hero (9:45 p.m., Sport3)?
Friday, September 23, 2022, 12:00
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Summary of the Euro final: Italy beats England 2:3 in penalties and wins the tournament, after 1:1 at the end of 120 minutes (Sport1)
Imagine what Luke Shaw's position would be today if Leonardo Bonucci had not managed to equalize in the final of Euro 2020. The left back of Manchester United bombed at Wembley only two minutes after the opening whistle, and for more than half the English led the way to what was described as a historic first win in the European Championship.
If the game had ended with the expected result 0:1, Shaw would have become the hero of the nation.
His name would have been written in golden letters in the history books alongside Jeff Hurst who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final.
No one would dare say a bad word about him for a long time.
And maybe England didn't deserve to win the gold medals last summer, but Shaw certainly did.
After everything he went through medically, he showed a kind of heroism during the tournament and overcame all possible obstacles on the way to glory.
Before the announcement of the squad for the Euros, the defender tore ligaments in his hand in the Europa League final, and it was feared that this would prevent him from being included in Gareth Southgate's list.
The coach chose to bet on him,
At the end of the championship, it was revealed that Shaw broke his ribs in the round of 16 against Germany, when he missed Raheem Sterling's critical goal.
He played with broken ribs in the quarterfinals against Ukraine, and provided two more assists.
He played with broken ribs in the semi-final against Denmark, and was one of the standouts on the field.
He played with broken ribs in the final - and celebrated his first goal in the team's uniform with phenomenal timing.
Think about that for a moment.
Shaw was one of the biggest stars at Euro 2020, even though all the circumstances were against him.
A dream tournament.
Lock show at Euro 2020 (Photo: Reuters)
He did not deserve to be at the top.
Instead, Bonucci equalized, England lost on penalties, and Shaw's life returned to a particularly unpleasant routine.
The fans at Old Trafford have long since stopped considering the shocking fracture in his leg that he suffered in 2015.
They don't really appreciate Show's fighting spirit, and have gotten used to seeing him mostly as a weak point.
There were also those who tried to do him character assassination.
Jose Mourinho's statement was so unusual that it can never be forgotten.
"He played with his body and with my mind," the Portuguese said of his apprentice, and it would be quite difficult to come up with something more insulting.
It's not easy being Luke Shaw at Manchester United.
It's not easy when your every injury is met with laughter and teasing, instead of an expression of empathy and solidarity.
It's not easy to realize how much the club doesn't trust you.
It's sad to realize that the promising career was pretty much ruined by that unfortunate injury 7 years ago, which continues to affect each and every day.
"I was very close to losing a leg," the defender revealed in retrospect.
It is a fact that towards the end of last season, Shaw underwent surgery to remove two screws that were inserted at the time in order to connect the bones.
Shortly before, Shaw scored again for the national team, this time in a victory over Switzerland in the Nations League.
He has two goals in a year and a half, and both were scored in the England uniform.
This is not really surprising, and his words after the celebration were absolutely clear.
"I always enjoy the atmosphere that Gareth Southgate creates here. When I come to the team, it's always fun, and I play with a smile on my face. I only concentrate on what's happening here, in the team. In my opinion, each of us does that. It's very important to feel welcome . I'm not saying it's not like that at Manchester United, but here this feeling is especially strong," Shaw stated.
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Just don't trust him.
Luke Shaw at Manchester United (Photo: Reuters)
This perhaps explains why Southgate called the defender to the squad this time as well, ahead of the Nations League games against Italy and Germany, even though his professional and health condition is not alarming to say the least.
After missing the end of last season due to surgery, Shaw started the current season in a catastrophic way.
He was involved in the home loss to Brighton and the 4:0 defeat to Brentford that immediately became legendary.
Since then Tyrrell Malaysia, the energetic new acquisition from Feyenoord, has taken his place in the wing - and so far he is making a much better impression.
In the meantime, Show injured his foot, and he will not be in optimal shape for the national team matches.
That didn't stop the boss, who values him very much, to re-summon him.
Southgate addressed the issue, and also included Harry Maguire, Calvin Phillips and Ben Chilwell on a list of players who are not playing enough this season.
"They don't get many playing minutes in their teams, which is ideal, but we feel that they were and remain very important players for us. It's not final, we still have time to submit the squad for the World Cup in Qatar. We chose this squad based on contribution and fitness over time," he said.
Shaw has a lot of good points reserved for him, especially after Euro 2020. It is not easy to break this alliance, and it is also not sure that it is necessary.
With business only getting more frustrating at Manchester United, trips to the national team become even more critical for the defender, especially psychologically.
Keeps faith with Shaw.
Gareth Southgate (Photo: Reuters)
He will be happy to prove himself again, if he is fit to be on the field, and if the coach gives him the keys to the left wing.
The formative experience he had at the European Championship a year ago makes him want even more to return to the World Cup.
After countless fractures, tears and muscle strains, he wants to be part of the atmosphere in the dressing room that he often praises.
He missed the previous match against Italy in June because of the surgery, for tonight's match (Friday, 21:45, Sport3) he is determined to recover and get the chance from Southgate - because this recovery is good for his soul.
And when he is there, against the team that robbed him of the gold medal, Shaw will remember the ball he sent into Gianluigi Donnarumma's net at Wembley.
It was the most wonderful moment of his career, and it could have been the most wonderful day of his career.
In the parallel world, he should have received a statue near Old Trafford, instead of receiving aggressive criticism.
And if fate would have it, he may score again in front of the Italian rear to close the circle.
And even if he watches Bonucci from the stands, the goal against Italy will go through his head again and again.