South­gate over­comes own mis­giv­ings to land England job

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Five months af­ter say­ing he lacked the ex­pe­ri­ence to coach England, Gareth South­gate landed one of soc­cer’s tough­est roles on Wed­nes­day by show­ing he can han­dle the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The 46-year-old South­gate pulled out of the run­ning to suc­ceed Roy Hodg­son af­ter England’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship de­ba­cle, clear­ing the way for Sam Al­lardyce’s ap­point­ment in July.

But when Al­lardyce was forced out fol­low­ing one game in charge, South­gate had an un­ex­pected chance to get a taste of coach­ing England for four games.

Pro­moted from the un­der-21 team, South­gate passed his au­di­tion and se­cured a four-year con­tract.

“I think at that time (in July) there would have been a per­cep­tion about some­one be­ing pro­moted in­ter­nally through the or­gan­i­sa­tion,” South­gate said.

“Hav­ing had the op­por­tu­nity to prove my­self over a small sam­ple of games I have been able to show I can han­dle the role... and prove to peo­ple I was ca­pa­ble of pre­par­ing the team for some big matches.”

South­gate said he be­lieves he is qual­i­fied to fill a role pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by veteran coaches Fabio Capello and Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son de­spite his only pre­vi­ous first-team man­age­rial role at Mid­dles­brough end­ing in 2009 af­ter three years.

“Af­ter the sum­mer I have had time to re­flect on the qual­i­ties I have got, the ex­pe­ri­ences I have got and how that would pre­pare me for this sort of a role,” South­gate said.

The for­mer England de­fender pointed to tour­na­ment ex­pe­ri­ence as a player and in charge of the un­der-21 team, which saw him work with much of the cur­rent se­nior squad.

“I’ve thor­oughly en­joyed work­ing with the play­ers over th­ese past four games and I think there’s huge po­ten­tial,” South­gate said of his un­beaten run as in­terim coach.

South­gate se­cured World Cup qual­i­fy­ing wins over Malta and Scot­land, a draw against Slove­nia, and a 2-2 draw against Spain in a friendly.

He seemed at ease in the role and even showed some back­bone by drop­ping cap­tain Wayne Rooney in his sec­ond match as in­terim coach.

South­gate was the only per­son the English Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion in­ter­viewed this time, with the gov­ern­ing body say­ing it looked into a “num­ber of man­agers” be­fore Al­lardyce was hired in July.

“The job was re­ally to as­sess Gareth against that group of peo­ple we looked at be­fore,” FA chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Glenn said of the five-man panel which in­ter­viewed South­gate.

Glenn said South­gate dis­played “great con­fi­dence, he re­ally knows what he is talk­ing about and he un­der­stands how to mo­ti­vate play­ers.”

“You can see, like all of us, he has still got things to learn,” Glenn said, “and we got a bet­ter idea about the ways we can put sup­port around him to en­sure he can be suc­cess­ful.”

England won the 1966 World Cup, but has only reached the semi­fi­nals of a tour­na­ment twice since then.

The last time was at Euro ‘96 when South­gate missed the de­ci­sive penalty in a shootout against Ger­many — the cur­rent team’s next op­po­nent in March.

England hosts the world’s rich­est soc­cer league and has ex­ces­sively high ex­pec­ta­tions for a na­tional team with such a woe­ful record at re­cent ma­jor tour­na­ments.

With Hodg­son in charge, England was elim­i­nated in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and then lost to tour­na­ment new­comer Ice­land in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

Once a job sought by the best coaches in world foot­ball, the England role has lost its ap­peal.

No reign has been shorter or more em­bar­rass­ing for the FA than Al­lardyce’s.

He left the job af­ter 67 days — and just one match — when his in­tegrity was dam­aged by un­guarded com­ments to un­der­cover re­porters about il­le­gal trans­fer prac­tices and po­ten­tial pub­lic-speak­ing ap­pear­ances.

Clean-cut, well-spo­ken and with no bag­gage, South­gate fits the bill for the FA in terms of im­age.

He also knows the FA and what the na­tional body wants and ex­pects, hav­ing been coach of the un­der-21 team for three years and the gov­ern­ing body’s head of elite de­vel­op­ment be­fore that.

He re­paired some of the dam­age done to his coach­ing rep­u­ta­tion from his time at Mid­dles­brough when he was with the un­der-21 team, lead­ing it to a first ti­tle in 22 years at this year’s Toulon tour­na­ment.

And he im­pressed dur­ing his two-month spell as in­terim coach of England’s se­nior team by im­ple­ment­ing a brave style of play that saw the team play the ball out from the back as much as pos­si­ble.

In his play­ing ca­reer, South­gate had spells at Crys­tal Palace, As­ton Villa and Mid­dles­brough.

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