Gareth Southgate will be well rested before England's game against Germany
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On Monday the England manager will have slept well. But Gareth Southgate has given an insight into how he often gets up in the early hours, after fitful rest, to prepare for matches before then trying to go back to bed.
"I sleep well the night before a game because the work is done,” Southgate said ahead of the last-16 European Championship tie against Germany. “But in the days before that when you’re working through all those things and because you’ve got a quick turnaround, want as much information as you can and your head is spinning with ideas and getting the right pictures, you can be awake at different hours.
“Sometimes I sleep then wake up in the night and then I’ll go and watch something for an hour or two then go back and have another couple of hours sleep. That’s pretty normal for me. (But) I think I’ll sleep well (now) because decisions have been made and we know where we are headed."
As an example Southgate cited his reaction to England finding out they would face the Germans after that extraordinary climax to Group F last Wednesday night. During the chaotic final games England’s opponents switched from Germany to Portugal to France to Hungary and back again until Leon Goretkza’s late equalising goal settled it.
Southgate’s response? At 10pm he left the hotel foyer and bar area where the games were being watched by the squad and staff and went to his hotel room at St George’s Park, where England are based, and downloaded in full Germany’s three group games from Hudl, the analysis platform that he and his coaching team use, and watched them all that night.
What Southgate insisted he did not do in that moment was dredge up the feelings of Euro 96 and, yes, that penalty miss by him in the semi-final shoot-out against Germany, and waste emotional energy on going over it again even if he has made something of a joke of his saved spot-kick around the camp.
Southgate and his coaching staff at St George's Park
“No, look, I totally understand why everybody asks the question so no issue with that,” Southgate said. “My reaction was to get their games downloaded and go straight back to my room and watch them that night, to learn exactly what we were preparing for.
“We were straight on to working through that tactical plan and how the training periodisation should be, getting as much information for the players without overloading them throughout that week, so that was the focus for us. We had 20 minutes where we could have been playing any of four opponents and that sorted itself out really.”
Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland were also already armed with detailed documentation in what it takes to win a tournament – including an analysis examining Germany’s successful World Cup campaign in 2014 under Joachim Low and, more recently, how Portugal triumphed at the last Euros in 2016 and France at the 2018 World Cup. Holland used the first lockdown to go through every kick of those two recent tournaments.
“We’ve got to become a team that is always hitting those latter stages of a tournament to be really respected by the rest of Europe,” Southgate said with captain Harry Kane reiterating that by stating England need to “break the mould” of other nations, such as Germany, going “far in a lot of tournaments” instead of them.
Euros – Road to the final
Southgate and Holland pride themselves on their preparation. It is why, for example, they deliberately sought out more challenging friendlies and fixtures when they took over. “You want as many matches against big opponents as possible,” Southgate said. “Because it prepares you for the challenge you are going to face when you get to these major tournaments and historically England have always qualified well and we should qualify well but these are the moments on which you’re judged.”
Judgement day has arrived. That bank of knowledge includes playing three-at-the-back – as England will revert to for this tie – for the first time under Southgate against Germany in a friendly in Dortmund in 2017. None of three starters that evening are in the squad but Southgate wanted to try out the system which he used to effect at the last World Cup rather than worry about the result.
Southgate insisted beating Germany will not “heal everything” or “give closure” for what happened in previous knock-out ties against the same opponents (this will be the sixth since 1966 and England have lost the previous five) and especially with memories of 96. “I’ve got an opportunity of doing something now, but the team-mates I’ve played with are the ones I think about the most for that fixture. So, I can’t do that, that’s something I have to accept,” Southgate said. But he can make sure that England are as ready as they can be – even if it has cost him some sleep.