Gareth Southgate – A Logical Step or a Last Resort?
Being an England fan is an experience unlike any other. Every single time a major tournament comes around, the nation stands as one in becoming completely infatuated by the smallest possibility of success, brandishing every player under the age of 24 “one of the most exciting prospects we’ve had in years” and finding an array mostly irrelevant of statistics that suggests that this year is indeed, “our year”.
And Euro 2016 was no different. Convinced by our seemingly obstacle-free group, we pinned our hopes upon the young shoulders of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and the almost pubescent Marcus Rashford, whilst assuming that because it was 20 years since Euro ’96, England appearing in the semi-finals was something that surely must be replicated.
But as we all know, it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.
So, Roy Hodgson did the honourable thing and resigned post-match, all but ending his managerial career in the process, and the FA began the hunt for the man that would be next in line to break the hearts of the nation once more. Several names took their turn to be put through the rumour mill, but eventually, it was revealed that Mike Basset’s real-life replica, Sam Allardyce, would be taking on the role. Perhaps he, a man that seemingly personified the nation itself, would be the one to rescue the Three Lions.
But as we all know, he wasn’t. He really wasn’t.
So, yet again, the FA set about securing a replacement. This time however, they went for ol’ faithful himself. A man that has been so intertwined with the England setup over recent years that it seemed almost inevitable that one day he would be given the job – Gareth Southgate. Although he is yet to be given the job on a permanent basis, after the 3-0 win against Scotland, you would be forgiven for feeling it is only a matter of time before he assigns himself to the disappointment of millions on a contractual basis. I mean, it’s not like he is a stranger to being a significant contributing factor to England’s international failure is it?
So, with all jokes put to one side, is this appointment one that is deserved, or just the easy way out of another potential disaster for the FA’s recruitment department?
Well, there is no doubt that Gareth has been an incredibly loyal servant to his country, both as a player, and as a manager of the U-21s, a role he has held since 2013. During that time, he coached his side to the European Championships in 2015 in the Czech Republic – but saw a squad that contained the likes of Harry Kane, Danny Ings, Jesse Lingard and Nathan Redmond finish bottom of their group, with just three points. Admittedly, the group did contain Italy, and the eventual winners of the competition, Sweden, but it’s not exactly grounds for a promotion, is it?
Despite this evidently poor performance, he did only ever lose three of thirty-one games he was in charge for during his reign, and two of those came in the aforementioned European Championships. Although you feel that these are statistics that can only be expected (given the standard of opposition that are faced by England teams on a regular basis), it is still undeniably impressive. An 80% win ratio is something that most international managers can’t boast (although Allardyce retains his record of winning 100% of his matches during his tenure).
Also, much like some of the players mentioned above, progression from the youth systems to the first team can really show the true colours of those trusted to make the step up – so why is that not the case with managers? Southgate understands just what is expected of him, as well as the magnitude of the job he is soon to be offered. His experience within English international football is something that he definitely holds to his advantage, which could not be applied by say, Ralf Rangnick, who was also said to be approached for the job. Foreign occupants haven’t exactly been a blessing to the role, in all fairness.
So, in conclusion, perhaps it is a combination of both. He is the obvious choice, a ‘safe bet’ if you will, but also one that was destined for the role, given his long-term previous commitments. Regardless of why, he is the current England manager, so supporting this decision is absolutely necessary, whether you agree with his employment status or not. Granted, his first three matches have been far from inspiring, with the most recent only seeming so emphatic due to a poor Scottish performance – but look on the bright side! In 2018, when the World Cup rolls around, it’ll have been 45 years since we beat the USSR in an International Friendly back in 1973, which surely means we’re bound to win the tournament being held in Russia.
Possibly. Maybe not.
Not at all.