Southgate warns squad to toe the line
England will not advance as a team if the off-field behavior of its players continues to cause distractions, new manager Gareth Southgate said on Thursday.
Southgate found himself dealing with a media firestorm last month when it emerged that captain Wayne Rooney and other players had stayed up late drinking on a night off during the international break.
While Southgate is reluctant to impose draconian rules, he said England cannot hope to emulate teams like the all-conquering New Zealand rugby squad if its off-pitch behavior is counter-productive.
“I think if you look at top sports teams, New Zealand’s All Blacks are one of the best examples over the years,” Southgate said at Wembley.
“The players are involved in that, because you are giving them ownership and accountability.
“And if they want to be on top, which I believe they do, they have got to recognize what are the things that are going to help us achieve that and what are the things that are going to detract from that.
“If we think we are good enough to take on the best in the world without doing everything right along the way, then good luck with that.”
Rooney, 31, apologized after he was pictured looking worse for wear as he posed for photographs with people attending a wedding at the England team hotel.
The Manchester United striker branded media coverage of the incident “disgraceful”, but Southgate said it is in the players’ interests to keep themselves out of the headlines.
“Where I will be clear is that there is a level of expectation when you are with England,” he said.
“We talk about pressure and we spend most of our time trying to relieve it.
“So if we put ourselves in positions where we are going to increase that pressure, it is not intelligent.”
Southgate, 46, was appointed England manager last week on a four-year contract after filling in for four games in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s premature departure following a newspaper sting.
His aim is to improve the fortunes of a side that last reached a major tournament semifinal at Euro 96, when Southgate was on the team, and which has not won a knockout match since the 2006 World Cup.
Southgate was the only man interviewed for the job, but Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn dismissed suggestions he had been given an easy ride.
“It was reported as a ‘fireside chat’, but it was anything but,” said Glenn, who flanked Southgate along with FA technical director Dan Ashworth as the new manager was presented to the media.
“It started off with a review of, ‘OK, go through the last four games. What have you learned?’
“And there were also some pretty feisty opinions from the more technical (soccer) people in the room about some things.
“That was a good example of saying, ‘OK, do Gareth’s powers of analysis stand up to scrutiny?’
“Secondly, and as Gareth has said himself, thinking correctly under pressure.”
Southgate begins his fulltime tenure with a friendly against Germany in Dortmund on March 22.