Gareth Southgate: England coach on staying, the World Cup and human rights
Gareth Southgate has considered stepping down as England coach due to the criticism he faced ahead of the World Cup, saying: “The last thing you want as a manager is to have your presence divisive and dampen performance.”
The team was booed in June after A.J 4-0 defeat against Hungary At Molineux in the Nations League – part of a generally poor run of results leading up to the Winter World Cup finals.
He explained for the first time how he came to the decision to stay in his job, He told BBC Sport: “I never want to be in a situation where my presence affects the team in a negative way.
“I couldn’t believe that was the case, but I just wanted the post-World Cup period to reflect and make sure that was the case.”
The 52-year-old said he asked himself, “Is it the right thing to keep doing this project? I wanted to make sure I remained fresh and hungry for the challenge.”
Describing his role as “the greatest privilege of my life”, he said the decision to stay on was “ultimately not difficult” because of “the quality of the performance and the progress we’re making”.
“The team is still improving. We all believe in what we are doing,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted at the team’s training base St George’s Park, Southgate:
- He strongly suggested that he consider the announcement last year that Qatar would be his final tournament “to edit that narrative so the support is behind the team, not to discuss whether the manager should be there or not.”
- He said it was “really tough” to get out of the quarter-finals but the support from the players and fans “definitely lifts you up”.
- He revealed that he was “comfortable” with his tactics during Defeat France And did not regret
- He insisted that England are “really competitive against everyone now” and are “very confident” about their chances at next year’s European Championships in Germany.
Doubts before Qatar
In the aftermath of his team’s defeat by France six weeks ago, Southgate said he felt “conflicted” about his future, having “found large parts of the past 18 months difficult”.
England entered the World Cup on the back of being relegated from their Nations League group and during the defeat to Hungary some England fans chanted “You don’t know what you’re doing” at the manager.
After failing to meet the semi-finals he led England to at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 final, Southgate said he would “review and think”.
A week later, however, the FA announced that he would expire the remaining two years of his contract.
Now, in his first public comment since that decision, Southgate has opened up about the impact the criticism he received after the Hungary defeat had had on him.
“I was worried after that game the team would be affected by the narrative about whether the manager stays or goes and when we went into the games in September we were a little worried.
At Wembley against Germany The crowd wasn’t against their team but they were waiting to see what happened.
“I’ve been with teams where that can get in the way of performance, and the last thing you want as a manager is for your presence to be divisive and get in the way of performance.
“I knew I had the support of the players and [the FA]There are bigger things at stake with England than just… [that].
“My only concern…was when I feel there might be a dichotomy between what the fans want and where my stance might be, that could affect the team, and I was very aware of that leading up to the World Cup.
“I felt like we had a lot of support, but I was conscious of … what it would be like during and after?”
Southgate says his team recovered before the World Cup, but he wanted to make sure after the tournament that staying was the right thing for his team.
“You have to give yourself time in these situations to make good decisions,” he said.
“I think it’s easy to rush things when emotions are running high, and many times you have to sleep a little more and come to the right conclusions.
“The question for me was… ‘Is this the right thing to do to continue doing this project?'” Because it’s not just the six years I’ve been with the seniors – I’ve spent the 10 years here developing everything as well. So I wanted to make sure I was still fresh and eager for the challenge.”
attempt to hack history
Referring to how close he came to announcing before the World Cup that he would step down after the tournament, Southgate said: “My thought is always there, ‘How does this affect the team?'” “
“Will this give the team the best chance of going to the World Cup?” he added.
“Do we need to edit that narrative so that the support is behind the team, not debating whether or not the manager should be there? But I think we’ve been through that period.”
Asked if he had wavered as he considered whether to stay, Southgate said: “Not after the World Cup. Up front it was a bit different.
“I wasn’t quite sure how things were going, and I think it’s always right to judge an international coach on his tournaments.
“Our performance was good. With France, in the course of the game, we have to win. But football is a low-scoring game where small margins make a difference.
“And we have to make sure now that those small margins turn in our favour. We are now much closer to really having that faith to win. We still have a small step to take – I’ve seen team progress from our Euro performances.
“We’re trying to break through history here as well against high-level opponents. I feel like we’re really competitive against everyone now.
“Outside France, and you can discuss Croatia, we have probably been as consistent as any team in terms of finishes. And I think people have enjoyed this journey with us.”
When asked how it feels to see someone else take over, Southgate replied: “I never worry about someone else taking over and taking advantage of it, that’s the way it should work.
“We’re talking about building England’s future right now, for the next tournament, but also beyond that.”
“It was hard to get out.”
Southgate said the support he received from the players and fans after France’s defeat “definitely lifts you up”.
“The moment you leave is really difficult, and you know what steps you have to take next,” he said.
“But I don’t think you can make decisions as a manager just by having the support of everyone because you will never have the support of everyone.”
While most of Southgate’s selections paid off in Qatar, and his team showed more attacking intent than previously, there was some criticism that he waited until the 85th minute against France to introduce in-form Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.
When asked if he had any regrets about the match, he said, “I really don’t. What I’ve learned on this job is, when the outcome doesn’t go as you wish, the solution is always the things you didn’t do, because of course nobody knows.” How can it look.
“So I’m comfortable with that. I think we’ve used the team well. There can always be an argument about a different player doing something at a different time.”
When Southgate was told that some fans feel the need for a new manager to help deliver silverware to England, he said: “I think if we’re not performing at the level that it has been, then I think there would be a bit more legitimacy to that argument.
“We all gain faith in what we do.
“We’re competing with everyone now and the match with France showed we can control the ball against these big teams.”
The greatest privilege of my life
In the build-up to the World Cup, Southgate was regularly asked to comment Human rights issues that surrounded Qatar’s controversial hosting of the tournament.
“There are moments when life would be much clearer for me if the focus was just on football,” he said.
“You are very aware of the impact your words have and you have to represent your country on the world stage.
“So there may be a point of view in our country for certain things, but you also have to be an ambassador when you travel and when you interact with other people.
“So it’s complicated, but it’s also been the greatest privilege of my life to lead my country and I’m very aware of that honor. It’s allowed me to have experiences in life that I could never have expected.”
The FA Cup is an important platform.
Southgate was speaking ahead of the fourth round of the FA Cup and said the matches would play a role in helping him choose his team for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against champions Italy and Ukraine in March.
“Many teams play with young English players and it is their first experience in competitive football,” he said.
“So it’s great to see young players progressing.
“We have a lot of players playing well. It’s interesting to watch this period because it’s the first time that players have had to come back from a major tournament directly into club football.
“The next few weeks are important for us to keep an eye on, perhaps even more so for players who may not have been with us regularly.
“But then, as we head into March, it’s really important who’s at his level and who can help us win a decisive game going to Napoli, and then also with Ukraine.”