It was less than 30 seconds in, with England hosting Kosovo. Ross Barkley received the ball in his own half and somehow, facing his own goal and the entirety of St. Mary’s to play the ball into, decided that a backpass to Michael Keane with Valon Berisha pressing was the smartest idea.
What followed was no news to any Everton fans. Under pressure, Keane looked for his equally lead-footed defensive partner Harry Maguire instead of hoofing clear. Instead he found a Kosovan forward who promptly found another blue camo jersey (Berisha again) for the opener. Jordan Pickford rushing out had no chance. Disaster.
Fittingly, the two perpetrators of that dastardly deed combined to bring the Three Lions level. Barkley’s corner was headed back into the six-yard-box by Keane for Raheem Sterling to nod home and pull England level, but the damage was done.
No matter that Declan Rice had an equally egregious giveaway or Liverpool darlings Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson were caught napping for Kosovo’s second or Maguire’s Benny Hill-esque clearance attempt slash foul led to the third conceded by England, the narrative has been set against Keane right from the start.
However, Everton manager Marco Silva jumped to the defence of his centrehalf. Speaking after his pre-match press conference ahead of the Toffees’ trip down south to AFC Bournemouth. he said -
“I spoke to him when I saw him. Normally, I speak to all the international players, even if you have a big number. I like to do that. With some of them, I like to do it straight before the first session. It’s what I did with Michael.
“The first thing I said to him was: ‘Congratulations.’ England won two games, this is true, and the coach had the confidence to put him in the starting XI also.
“It wasn’t just one game. The second match was a tough night - but not just for Michael. I think for the backline, it was a tough one. It is so easy. It is a moment for him to learn. In the moments, in the football moments, you have the good things that you take and you try to improve.”
The manager was not worried that this would carry on into the Blues trip to the Cherries, and insisted his central defender would grown from this experience.
“When something happens that is not so good, you have to learn from that. I’m 100 per cent sure that I didn’t need to speak to Michael to tell him this.
“He knows it was a good moment to learn. He had feedback straight after the match. But the conversation with Michael was good and everything is clear in his mind. He will improve for the next match.”