South­gate sets lofty goals for his Eng­land team

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

NEW Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate wants to make the un­der-achiev­ing na­tion the world’s top foot­ball power, how­ever long it takes, he said at the week­end.

Eng­land have slumped to 13th in Fifa’s rank­ings and have failed to make any im­pact at ma­jor tour­na­ments for decades but South­gate is rel­ish­ing the task ahead.

“We’re 13th in the world rank­ings and at the last two tour­na­ments we haven’t got through a knock­out game,” South­gate, who was named as full-time man­ager in Novem­ber af­ter a four-match in­terim pe­riod in charge, said.

“There are some ob­sta­cles we have to over­come but for me that’s a great op­por­tu­nity and the po­ten­tial is huge.

“I don’t have any fear in what lies ahead be­cause I’m just see­ing what’s pos­si­ble. How do we go to be­ing the No 1 team in the world?

“We’ve got to de­liver, we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to work in­tel­li­gently. I’m look­ing at what’s achiev­able, I’m not think­ing about any­thing else.”

South­gate has taken charge af­ter a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod for Eng­land. Af­ter a poor 2014 World Cup when they went out at the group stage there came the dis­mal flop at Euro 2016 when they were knocked out by Ice­land in the last 16, lead­ing to the res­ig­na­tion of man­ager Roy Hodg­son.

Hodg­son’s re­place­ment Sam Al­lardyce lasted only 67 days be­fore step­ping down af­ter be­ing caught up in a news­pa­per sting in which he was se­cretly recorded say­ing it was pos­si­ble to “get around” Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion rules on player trans­fers.

Un­der his guid­ance Eng­land are un­beaten, if not thor­oughly con­vinc­ing, in four games with wins against Malta and Scot­land and draws with Slove­nia and Spain.

He has im­pressed with his re­al­ism and vi­sion for the fu­ture though and has not been afraid to speak his mind.

On tak­ing over he spoke of the need for some “hu­mil­ity” in a squad full of millionaire play­ers.

Con­tin­u­ing that theme South­gate, who won 57 Eng­land caps, said he was con­cerned about the spi­ralling wages of young play­ers.

“The very best play­ers have that drive and that’s why they get to the top,” he said.

“The con­cern is for any young player at an academy, who’s not quite made it in the first team, but thinks they have be­cause you get big money for hav­ing achieved noth­ing.

“If you don’t have that in­ner drive, there’s a dan­ger you’ll never ac­tu­ally get to be a top pro­fes­sional or be a first-team player. In years to come they could look back and have huge re­grets.”

South­gate has al­ready said Wayne Rooney will re­main cap­tain, even if the Manch­ester United for­ward is no longer a guar­an­teed starter in the first team. The for­mer Mid­dles­brough boss wants more lead­er­ship through­out the squad though.

“At dif­fer­ent mo­ments you’ve got to have dif­fer­ent peo­ple take that lead, whether that’s be­ing brave enough to take the ball or talk­ing to the oth­ers, get­ting them men­tally back on course,” he said.

“A lot of that re­spon­si­bil­ity over the last few years has fallen on Wayne’s shoul­ders; that’s got to be shared, that’s got to be de­vel­oped and that’s not just on the field but off the field in par­tic­u­lar.”

Eng­land’s next game is at home to Lithua­nia in a World Cup qual­i­fier on March 26.

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