FIFA WC

Published on July 10th, 2018 | by Peter Coates

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England’s unlikely hero Gareth Southgate ushers in new era

🕓 Reading time:3 minutes

Previously infamous for being part of England’s past failure, Gareth Southgate has grown into a figurehead of a bright new era for the Three Lions 

Were it not for a pint of wine and some undercover reporters, England would likely have been under the guidance of Sam Allardyce at this World Cup and not only would the Three Lions probably not have been doing so well but the nation would never have discovered its new icon, Gareth Southgate.

That could be Sir Gareth or even Saint Gareth should England actually lift the World Cup but regardless of how this week pans out, Russia has proved to be a new dawn for English football.

Two years ago England were crashing out of the European Championships to Iceland and two years prior to that, the Three Lions failed to register a win in Brazil finishing bottom of their World Cup group.

If someone had said that Gareth Southgate of all people would take charge of a vibrant, young England side, implement an ambitious, modern 3-3-2-2 formation and lead the country to its first World Cup semi-final since 1990, they would have been laughed at. 

That night in Turin 28 years ago has epitomized England since and Gareth Southgate has played his own role in that narrative with a penalty miss at the same stage at Euro 96 — The summer when football was supposed to be coming home originally.

Just as England have struggled to shake off that reputation so too has Gareth Southgate. An excellent central defender, whose career in large part was reduced to one missed penalty and a pizza hut advert.

Eric Dier slotting home from the spot against Colombia in the quarter finals was redemption for Southgate and for England and raised the noise of ‘Football’s coming home’ to a cacophonous din.

Southgate’s role has been vital. Not only in selecting a fresh, new-look squad and assembling a side that brings the best out of those selected but also in preparing them mentally.

The scars from past failures that he knows all too well have been consigned to history and Southgate has urged the squad to only look forward.

“They know what they want to do. They know they stand on a moment of history, and their desperate to do as well as they possibly can. They don’t need any motivation for this now. It’s all there,” Southgate responded to whether the squad look back on events like 1990.

“I think we are just enjoying the journey. That has definitely helped us. Everything we have done has been based on enjoyment. How far can we go? Let’s push the boundaries. Let’s create our own history, and they are continuing to do that all of the time.

“You learn from the past, but this team shouldn’t be burdened with it.

“They’re a fresh group. The future is all ahead of them. The players and opportunities of the past have gone.”

And it is this calm, measured approach that has not only won over the England players but captured the nation.

Results on the pitch ultimately define a manager but the sight of Southgate consoling the Colombian players after that penalty shootout, the manner in which he conducts himself throughout and of course the now famous waistcoat, have all helped create an image that has been taken into the hearts of England supporters.

  “We’re a team with our diversity and youth that represents modern England and in England we’ve spent a bit of time being lost as to what our modern identity is, and I think as a team we represent that modern identity and hopefully people can connect with us.”

Southgate’s words ring true and the spirit that fills the squad had spread around the country. Whether that results in World Cup glory or not, it’s a welcome change and while the ‘nice guy’ might not necessarily win, he certainly hasn’t finished last. England under Southgate are in better shape than they have been for generations.   

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About the Author

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Peter is a British football writer living in Buenos Aires, who specialises on Argentine football. His passion for the game in South America took him to Argentina in 2011 and aside from starting his own site 'Golazo Argentino', he has covered the national side for The Independent and acts as WhoScored's expert on the Primera División.



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