Gareth Southgate's place as England manager appears to be secure, whatever happens on the pitch this summer
Credit: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Gareth Southgate’s job is not under pressure at the European Championships, even though he admits the public will judge him on how far England go.
Southgate’s contract as manager runs until the end of next year’s World Cup in Qatar and insiders claim he will not be sacked by the Football Association even if England flop this summer.
But Southgate is aware that public opinion could turn against him if England make an early exit from the Euros.
“If you look through history, England managers have very similar records and the tournaments are what you are defined by,” said Southgate, speaking to ITV. “Tournaments are about hitting form at the right time and we have to bring everything over the next four weeks.”
Asked if his squad have got what it takes to win a tournament, Southgate added: “We’ll have to show that.”
The FA have been delighted with Southgate’s work since he succeeded Sam Allardyce, who was sacked, in 2016 and believe he is the perfect man to keep taking England forwards – no matter what happens in the Euros.
Under Southgate, England reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup and the finals of the Nations League, and the 50-year-old has also proved himself to be a superb ambassador off the pitch.
Southgate and his players have faced a debate over whether or not the squad should take the knee ahead of games, following booing from supporters during the warm-up games.
England will continue to take the knee, but Southgate wants to shift the focus back to football and performances on the pitch – starting in the opening game against Croatia on Sunday.
“The players are just ready for the football, they want the football to speak for them,” said Southgate. “This is a moment in our lives that is a rare opportunity. We recognise the moments when we can make a difference and we still think that is important, but we want the story to be about football.”
Southgate is known to want to manage England at the World Cup in Qatar and is unlikely to walk away if the Euros do not go to plan.
Roy Hodgson resigned as England manager immediately after the last Euros in 2016, during which his team were knocked out by Iceland in the last-16.
Southgate himself has admitted that anything less than a semi-final appearance this year would be viewed as a disappointment after England reached the last four of the World Cup in Russia three years ago.
England could face a tough last-16 tie if they manage to win Group D, but even early elimination at that stage or a failure to get out of the group, which would be viewed by most fans as a disaster, would be unlikely to alter the FA’s view.
Southgate could have put himself in the frame for a host of club jobs that have become available over the last couple of years, including Tottenham Hotspur, but he has remained loyal to the FA and that will be rewarded regardless of results at the Euros.
Other than performing well at the World Cup and in the Nations League so far, Southgate has blooded a number of young players for England, the latest of which is 17-year-old Jude Bellingham who is part of his 26-man squad.
Southgate has also been credited with restoring the feel-good factor to international football, but, despite stories of his players enjoying sessions of the card game UNO, he does not want a holiday camp atmosphere within his squad.
“It is not essential to have everybody happy to have a successful team and, in fact, sometimes it is good if a few aren’t,” said Southgate. “It is important we’ve got an environment where players mix really well. But we’ve got to compete. We have to push and we need an environment that is on the edge, not too relaxed and too comfortable an environment.”
Mason Mount has adopted Southgate’s business-first approach by promising he will not try to swap shirts with any of England’s opponents during the Euros.
Midfielder Mount revealed how he and Luka Modric exchanged shirts over the two legs of the Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Real Madrid, but the 22-year-old will not be asking any of Croatia’s players for their shirts on Sunday.
"I spoke to (Mateo) Kovacic before the first game and asked if I could get his (Modric’s) shirt at a later date, I managed to do that and he asked for mine in the second game because I didn’t actually give him mine in the first,” said Mount.
“Kova said he likes to swap with players so he came up and said he wanted mine, just said good luck in the upcoming games. It was brilliant for me obviously to speak to him and he wanted my shirt, so I was quite overwhelmed yeah. I’ve got his shirt at home along with a couple of others I’ve got over the last couple of months or so. It’s always good to keep those special shirts."
“I’m not too sure if we’re allowed to swap our England shirts or not. But I think I’ll look to keep every shirt I wear being the Euros. I don’t want to give them away.”
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