(Reuters) – Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers launched an impassioned defence of James Maddison after the midfielder was pictured in a casino last week while England were losing a European Championship qualifier.
Maddison was initially named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad but was forced to withdraw through illness.
The 22-year-old was then spotted in a casino last Friday when England suffered their first qualifying defeat in 10 years away to the Czech Republic, leading to heavy criticism of the player’s conduct in the British media.
“The kid went away with the international team, he took ill… It was decided it was best for him to leave the camp,” Rodgers told reporters ahead of Leicester’s Premier League home match against Burnley on Saturday.
“Probably he’ll make better decisions in his life, but he went to a casino on his own to watch the second half by a poker table.
“His eyes have been opened to the wider world now. He knows in hindsight that he has made a mistake.”
Rodgers said questioning Maddison’s attitude and character was grossly unfair as the 22-year-old had proved his worth on and off the pitch since joining Leicester last year.
“I’ve seen various stories about his arrogance, around his mentality, they’re totally false,” said the Foxes boss.
“He’s desperate to play for England, but doesn’t feel entitled. It’s really unfair, he’s a really good boy, he’s passionate, practises every day, and his dream is to represent England.
“He knows by playing well for Leicester that’s going to give him a great opportunity. Until that happens, he’s going to fight.”
Rodgers also offered support to striker Jamie Vardy, whose pregnant wife Rebekah was accused of leaking stories about former England team mate Wayne Rooney’s wife Coleen to The Sun in a Twitter spat.
Rebekah has denied the allegation but Rodgers said he had given his striker time off during the international break to take care of his personal matters.
“We’re here to support him, his family if they need, and I spoke to him earlier on in the week, he’s trained fine, he’s been great this week and that is where we’re at,” Rodgers added.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru)