RE­BUILD­ING BE­GINS AGAIN

South­gate picks up pieces as Eng­land look to fu­ture with­out Rooney

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LONDON

AF­TER a year scarred by scan­dal and sport­ing catas­tro­phe, Gareth South­gate will be­gin his at­tempt to steer Eng­land into calmer wa­ters in to­day’s friendly against Ger­many in Dort­mund.

Eng­land be­gan 2016 with a stir­ring 3-2 win over Ger­many, but they were hu­mil­i­ated by Ice­land at Euro 2016 be­fore new man­ager Sam Al­lardyce was brought down by a news­pa­per sting af­ter just one game in charge.

South­gate, 46, has been left to pick up the pieces and he as­serted his author­ity by omit­ting cap­tain Wayne Rooney from his first squad, ex­plain­ing that it is time for Eng­land to build for the fu­ture.

“When you’re in the role tem­po­rar­ily, you are al­ways think­ing, ‘Do I make de­ci­sions for the long term or do you just need points for the coun­try?’” said South­gate, who ini­tially re­placed Al­lardyce on an in­terim ba­sis.

“Now there’s an op­por­tu­nity to put down things I think are im­por­tant.

“We’ve got a clear longer-term vi­sion of how we want to work as a group of staff, so the last few months have been about putting that into place.”

Eng­land left Ger­many a year ago with con­fi­dence sky-high af­ter goals from Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier saw Roy Hodg­son’s men come from 2-0 down to beat the world cham­pi­ons 32 in Ber­lin.

Hodg­son’s young team were ex­pected to make a splash at Euro 2016 in France, but af­ter limp group­stage draws against Rus­sia and Slo­vakia, they were stunned 2-1 by Ice­land in the last 16.

Hodg­son’s res­ig­na­tion saw Al­lardyce handed the job he had long cov­eted, only for him to fall foul of un­der­cover Daily Tele­graph re­porters who se­cretly filmed him mak­ing in­dis­creet com­ments in a ho­tel bar.

En­ter South­gate. Pro­moted from his role as Eng­land Un­der21 coach, he was given four games to prove him­self wor­thy of the top job.

Re­sults and per­for­mances were mixed as Eng­land beat Malta and Scot­land in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing, but could only draw 00 in Slove­nia and let a 2-0 lead slip to draw 2-2 in an end-of-year friendly with Spain.

But it proved a suc­cess­ful au­di­tion and South­gate — abet­ted by a glar­ing lack of other strong can­di­dates — was awarded a four-year con­tract in Novem­ber.

His first sig­nif­i­cant act was to side­line Rooney, four months af­ter the 31-year-old had to apol­o­gise for be­ing pic­tured look­ing the worse for wear along­side wed­ding guests at the Eng­land team ho­tel.

Rooney be­came Eng­land’s lead­ing scorer dur­ing the Euro 2016 qual­i­fiers, but he has lost his place at Manch­ester United and may never get an op­por­tu­nity to add to his 53 in­ter­na­tional goals.

In Rooney’s ab­sence, South­gate has in­di­cated he in­tends to al­lo­cate the cap­tain’s arm­band on a match-by-match ba­sis.

Theo Wal­cott was an­other ca­su­alty of South­gate’s first squad, the man­ager ex­plain­ing that the Ar­se­nal for­ward had not im­pressed him dur­ing Eng­land’s most re­cent games.

South­gate turned in­stead to sev­eral of his for­mer Un­der-21 charges, with Southamp­ton pair Nathan Red­mond and James Ward-Prowse no­tably awarded their first call-ups.

In­juries to strik­ers Kane and Daniel Stur­ridge meant 34-yearold Sun­der­land vet­eran Jer­main De­foe was sum­moned by his coun­try for the first time in close to four years.

South­gate out­lined his vi­sion for the year ahead in a pre­sen­ta­tion to the squad at Eng­land’s St George’s Park base on Mon­day.

“It was a very pow­er­ful mes­sage,” said mid­fielder WardProwse.

“It is one that the Un­der-21s have re­ceived be­fore, high­light­ing the highs and lows of a ca­reer and the am­bi­tions that he sees for us.

“I think ob­vi­ously we want to be the best in the world. If you want to win ma­jor tour­na­ments, then you’ve got to be­come that sort of team.”

Eng­land top their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing group ahead of Sun­day’s home game with Lithua­nia, but as South­gate will be keenly aware, the coun­try lost faith in the na­tional team a long time ago. AFP

We’ve got a clear longert­erm vi­sion of how we want to work as a group of staff, so the last few months have been about putting that into place.

GARETH SOUTH­GATE Eng­land man­ager

REUTERS PIC

Eng­land's Joe Hart dur­ing train­ing yes­ter­day.

Jer­main De­foe

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