Will Southgate end his Twitter sabbatical if England win the Euros?

Credit: REUTERS

Dig deep enough on social media and you can usually find some skeletons. At best old posts can embarrass their author, at worst, they can end their career.

There is a none-more-2021 phenomenon known as a ‘milkshake duck’. This is a term used to describe a suddenly beloved novelty who then equally quickly becomes a hate figure. Some intrepid soul scours their publicly-available history and the milkshake duck is revealed to have all manner of social media goblins hiding in plain sight. The initial enjoyment is sullied and the world is reminded that we are no longer allowed to have nice things.

Gareth Southgate is enjoying a deserved and extended moment of glory, but what would a deep dive into his surprisingly dense Twitter history reveal?

After joining the site in October 2010 Southgate was a prolific tweeter. His output is mostly earnest updates about serious work. Coaching initiatives, youth tournaments, worries for kids’ physical health. 

There are dutiful plugs for his ITV punditry work as well as the odd spiky response to people he disagrees with. In these cases Southgate engages, respectfully but forcefully disagrees, states his case and usually turns the conversation around from anger to polite exchanges within a few tweets. Textbook.

Most credibly of all, Southgate learned quicker than most of us that Twitter just isn’t worth the hassle. He left it behind more than six years ago, with a final post about netball:

Best of luck @YorkshireJets @ACoachcarter for semi finals today.
And good luck @nataliesymone for Sky Player of Season vote #jetsnetball

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) April 18, 2015

That broke nearly a year of online silence, otherwise Southgate’s Twitter epilogue would have been some upbeat interaction with former Villa team-mates Ian Taylor and Dube-botherer Dion Dublin

@DionDublinsDube @IanTaylor7 ha, yep closer to it…

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) June 19, 2014

Good clean footballer fun, although any mid-90s Villa team interaction which doesn’t arrive at this video within four moves or fewer is inherently flawed:

Perhaps there would be something more scurrilous further back in his history? The earliest tweet on the record is from 2011, midway through Southgate’s four-year break from management. It was a message of support for Bryan Robson, recovering from surgery on throat cancer. Can’t argue with that.

There is a light sprinkling of bants, often involving Roy Keane:

Bizarre evening. Roy assures me he’s got clean pants for tomorrow. See those who can make it on itv1 around 3.30pm

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) October 16, 2012

Soldiers in the culture war, prepare for battle. Southgate attended a Pro Licence graduation ceremony in Wokefield:

Heading home from Pro Licence at Wokefield, congrats to all those who graduated tonight. Fascinating afternoon for everyone with Roy Hodgson

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 1, 2011

…but don’t panic, it’s not the home of cancel culture, it’s just a stately home near Reading.

If you want to get really pedantic (and a look in our comments section suggest many of you really, really do) you could argue that his spelling needs work:

@tomegerton1993 you should know, you’re Dad never tells lies!

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) March 20, 2011

But then…

@tomegerton1993 I mean – your Dad of course (spelling police will be onto me!)

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) March 20, 2011

You can’t lay a finger on Gareth Southgate.

Some other unifying themes emerge.

The breadth

Southgate is a man of many sports, a lover of rugby:

Love rugby in fact meeting RFU tmrw on player development. No prob with players letting their hair down, but couple of comparables to follow

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) September 15, 2011

Cricket:

1st wicket down, great wicket keeping by Matt Prior

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) August 3, 2012

Tennis:

This Murray/ Djokovic match is absolutely top drawer

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) September 10, 2012

Basketball:

NBA teams have 82game regular season,many back to back games. Recovery from games+injury prevention crucial. Lots we can learn from that

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) October 4, 2011

Cycling

Brilliant documentary by Beeb on Victoria Pendleton + British Cycling team tonight. Inspirational

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 18, 2012

Rugby league

Rhinos incredible win over Wigan. Some match

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) September 28, 2012

And not forgetting one of the most beloved sports of the nation, mocking politicians:

Did I just hear George Osborne promise 110% focus on the economy?! Someone brief the Chancellor on percentages #onlyfootballerspromise110%

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) August 8, 2012

The moans

What is social media for if not shouting into the void about the mildly irritating ills of modern life?

Some things Southgate is sending to Room 101 of St George’s Park (which actually houses a cryo-recovery chamber, a tactics whiteboard and some old waistcoats. Probably) are traffic jams:

There must have been one of those surveys that tells us how many hours of our life we waste stuck on motorways. M62 standstill #dismal

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) April 12, 2011

Inefficient airport check-in processes:

Check in, Belgrade airport. Fair to say its a shambles #bunfight

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) May 7, 2011

And a poor selection of hotel TV channels:

No Eurosport in hotel- I’m relying on FIFA.com for live streaming of u17s v Germany.

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 4, 2011

Once again, quite hard not to feel #JeSuisGareth here. 

The ‘yer Da’ energy

No two ways about it, Southgate tweets like someone’s Dad. As well he might, as a father of two. 

There are the sudden random pleas for information:

Haha – is Jose washing basket scenario true or urban myth?

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) May 3, 2011

Nou Camp update pls

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) May 3, 2011

The tech failures:

Do not open DM from me – acccount hacked

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) October 15, 2012

We’ve all had texts like this from older people in our lives:

Re

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 17, 2011

Although once again, to his immense credit, Southgate is quick to apologise:

Just to confirm I am sober but clearly useless with my blackberry. Apologies for random picture of my lad who will probably demand royalties

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 17, 2011

An example for us all. 

Get it in the next official FA DNA document under the headline ‘Owning your learnings: projecting future positive outcomes’.

The local colour 

Southgate was a well-travelled man in his years working in development for the FA. It wasn’t just the airport queues and Eurosport failures he would share: 

Just seen a juggling unicyclist performing at a set of traffic lights – marvellous. #Colombia

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 28, 2011

But then, closer to home:

Difficult to beat the Wetherby Whaler for fish n chips

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) December 23, 2011

Never let it be said that Southgate lacks range.

An unendingly decent bloke

Unfortunately for anyone searching for dirt on the England manager the overall impression is of a consistently nice fella who’s right about everything. 

Anyone who played youth football on adult pitches will find it impossible to disagree with this:

BBC Breakfast about to give adult experience of what it’s like for kids in a full size goal. Remarkable we’ve only stopped doing it in 2012

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) September 15, 2012

Preach!

His moral backbone is present and correct, as this London riots tweet will attest:

What exactly are these riots achieving, other than misery for residents, expense and embarrassment for everyone? Disgraceful scenes

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) August 8, 2011

There is also plenty on the importance of seeing the good in young footballers:

Imagining Pirlo’s report as young player – can’t run, can’t tackle, poor in the air…. Ahh the importance of focussing on what kids CAN do

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) June 28, 2012

Most tellingly, after watching an England U17s team including Raheem Sterling and Jordan Pickford lose a World Cup quarter final 3-2 to Germany in 2011 and the resulting online fury, Southgate outlined his philosophy:

Just a point, these are 16+17 yr olds learning the game. I hope those offering their negative views don’t coach kids

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 4, 2011

Of course constructive criticism part of learning and honest feedback important. No hiding from reality, but no point slaughtering kids

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 4, 2011

Twitter tonight an insight into our football culture – real mix of long term positive thinkers against negative abusive types -interesting

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) July 4, 2011

This thinking now looks ahead of its time, especially given the composure and consistency he has instilled in Pickford, Sterling and his entire England team.

It’s unusual to feel wholly positive about anyone when just considering their social media persona. Southgate bucks the trend. The picture that emerges is of a thoughtful, hardworking man, prepared to stand up for what he believes in but not taking himself too seriously.

On the 22 August 2013 he was appointed the U-21s manager and sent this:

Thanks for all the messages, good & bad (goes with territory) hope to keep some twitter presence to keep engaging with Coaching Family

— Gareth Southgate (@GarethSouthgate) August 23, 2013

After that the tweeting regularity let up. Southgate became less revealing, less conversational, and offered few opinions. Thank goodness. 

He and England were on their way, without a hashtag in sight.