FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham has said that Gareth Southgate will receive a new deal regardless of how England fare at Euro 2020

Credit: ANDY RAIN
/Pool via REUTERS

The Football Association wants to open formal talks to extend Gareth Southgate’s contract even if England lose their last-16 tie against Germany in the European Championships.

Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, said the manager had his “unwavering support” no matter how England fared in the remainder of the tournament because he is doing a “brilliant job”.

Southgate’s current deal runs until the World Cup in Qatar in December 2022 but Bullingham revealed the FA would like to begin negotiations on an extension once the Euros are over – and would have wanted to even if England had not got through their group.

“We’ll get into that formal conversation after this tournament. But if you ask me now I’d say ‘yes we’d like him to carry on’ (beyond Qatar),” Bullingham said.

“I think he’s doing a brilliant job. I haven’t said that we’ve offered him a new contract. I haven’t gone into the details of that. But I think on the basis of everything we’ve seen so far he’s doing a great job and we’d like him to carry on doing that.”

Asked to clarify whether he meant beyond Southgate’s existing contract, Bullingham said: “We would love him to carry on, for sure, beyond this contract.”

FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham says the FA are preparing to offer Southgate a contract extension beyond the 2022 World Cup

Credit: Pool/The FA Collection

Southgate was appointed manager on a full-time basis in November 2016, after taking over as caretaker following the sacking of Sam Allardyce, and signed a new contract after taking England to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.

The 50-year-old has indicated that he intends to return to club management once he has completed his job with England but Bullingham suggested the FA would also like him to take the Three Lions to the next Euros in Germany in 2024.

Asked whether the Qatar World Cup was an incentive for Southgate to stay as England manager, Bullingham said: “I think it is. I think that the fact it’s only 18 months away is also exciting. Also this tournament being delayed was challenging in many ways but it reduces the gap not only to the next tournament but then you look at Germany after that it’s only 18 months after that I think it’s going to be a really exciting three years coming up.”

Southgate has impressed the FA on and off the pitch with the work that he has done and how he has conducted himself. “It’s easy to say that off the pitch he’s been brilliant – and he has – but on the pitch he’s been brilliant as well,” Bullingham said. “Semi-final in the World Cup, fantastic performance in the Nations League, some absolutely brilliant games. And even in the games where we haven’t quite got what we wanted there’ve been, I’d say, extenuating circumstances. He’s done a great job on and off the pitch and we’d love him to carry on.”

So impressed are the FA by Southgate that Bullingham said there may be a job for him within the organisation even when he decides he no longer wants to be a manager. “I think he’s got a brilliant long-term career in football and I know he might have aspirations longer-term,” he said. “He’s such a strong manager both on and off the pitch it opens up a whole array of different possibilities for him in the future. I think he could do anything in club world or FA world, absolutely.”

The England manager has spoken of his desire to return to club management once his tenure in charge of the national team concludes

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/REUTERS

Nevertheless if England lose to Germany on Tuesday it will be a step backwards from reaching the last four in Russia and there will be questions asked about Southgate’s management. But Bullingham said defeat would not change the FA’s view. “We are 100 per cent behind Gareth. He knows how we feel about him,” he said. “We want him to carry on. He’s doing a great job. Regardless of Tuesday. Absolutely. Regardless of the group stage of the tournament we would have wanted him to carry on.”

Southgate’s side will be up against Jamal Musiala who has elected to play for Germany despite playing for England at Under-15, 16, 17 and 21 age-group levels with Bullingham saying it is a “regret” that the teenager changed allegiances.
“We definitely didn’t want to lose him and it was definitely a regret that he did go,” Bullingham said of the 18-year-old who made his Euros debut and helped to create the chance for Leon Goretzka’s vital equalising goal against Hungary that set up the England tie. The Stuttgart-born attacking midfielder, whose family moved to England when he was seven before returning to Germany when he was 16, became the country’s youngest ever player at a major tournament.

“We’ve got a situation where, depending on who is picked, for each individual camp … over 80 per cent of our age group teams are dual nationality so we are going to have some people that we lose. That is inevitable,” Bullingham said.

“We’ve employed Steve Morrow in a slightly rejigged (FA) technical team and one of Steve’s priorities is to build those relationships with the players and their families. We want them to feel really good when they play as part of our set-up.

“I think with him, in particular, you can probably look back and say that the pandemic was unhelpful because there were not age group games going on and certainly the influences around him were his Bayern (Munich) teammates and obviously representatives from the DFB (German Football Federation), which made it a different set of circumstances that we would have otherwise had to deal with.”

Meanwhile, Bullingham said the FA would support the players if they continued to take the knee before matches next season. “We will respond to the players. That’s a player-led decision,” he said. “What I will say is that if they want to keep taking the knee, they have 100 per cent support absolutely.”

Comment: The FA has been too quick to stand by their man – a loss to Germany would make them look foolish

by Oliver Brown, Chief Sports Writer

Judging by the lengths to which the Football Association goes to guarantee Gareth Southgate’s job security, you would think it had unearthed England’s answer to Franz Beckenbauer, rather than a manager who has reached one major tournament semi-final in 4½ years. Not content with assuring Southgate of his future beyond this European Championship, irrespective of England’s fate, the FA is now seeking to keep him in post even after next year’s World Cup in Qatar, with his contract due to expire in December 2022.

That will be the third tournament in a row in which Southgate is afforded protected status even before a ball has been kicked. At this rate, a mooted England World Cup bid for 2030 will be built around this same philosophy of “one nation under Gareth”. The FA seems afflicted by a curious myopia when it comes to Southgate. It is as if, after the tumult of Roy Hodgson’s exit and the experience of having to sack Sam Allardyce after one game, it is lurching to the other extreme, committing itself to safe, stolid Southgate almost in perpetuity.

Unfortunately, international management does not operate like this. It is inherently precarious, with the incumbent only one premature tournament departure away from being in an untenable position. It took mere minutes after England’s loss to Iceland five years ago for Hodgson to recognise that he could not carry on a moment longer. A similar equation confronts Southgate for Tuesday night’s showdown with Germany, even if his team’s opponents have a far more formidable pedigree.

Euros – Road to the final

If England lose, it will be a failure that subjects his credentials to merciless scrutiny. A last-16 exit at what is effectively a home Euros, with England playing every match to date with a Wembley advantage? It could only be considered the grimmest of failures – which only makes the FA’s choosing of this, of all moments, to back him anew all the more bewildering.

Any definitive verdict on Southgate’s suitability to continue needs to be deferred until later in the championship. In terms of raw achievement, his body of work is satisfactory, but slender: one last-four appearance at a World Cup in which England lost twice to Belgium. The only explanation, then, for the FA backing its man so unconditionally is the effect that he has had in other areas, in becoming such a plausible figurehead, such a smooth ambassador for the governing body’s corporate messages. All of which is true: Southgate has been a remarkably stabilising influence on England since 2016, never offending sponsors, re-establishing a rapport with the media, and consistently showing a deft touch in vexed political debates.

But stability should not by itself be a passport to leading the national team for the best part of a decade. Time and again, the FA appears determined to stand full square behind Southgate for no better reason than he is dependable. But the cold reality is that he has not delivered yet. If England do succumb to Germany, the FA’s unswerving trust will look less like shrewd planning than a bizarre folly.