England manager Gareth Southgate captured the nation’s heart at the 2018 World Cup, making thousands of people all the around the country fall back in love with the Three Lions, as they progressed to semi-final of the Russian-based tournament.
England were 14th in the FIFA world rankings when Southgate took over back in November 2016, but over the course of the last four years, his side have climbed up to 4th, and are heading into next summer’s Euros as one of the favourites in the bet exchange.
However, in recent times, England have looked lacklustre, and some below par results, along with Southgate’s team selections, have left some of the Three Lions’ faithful questioning if the former Middlesbrough boss is still the right man for the job.
Since September, when international football got back underway for the first time in 2020, after the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the football calendar, England have drawn and lost to Denmark, and earlier this month suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Belgium.
The defeat to Belgium was one result in particular that Southgate took a lot of flak for. His team went 2-0 down early in the game, and, aside from Jack Grealish’s fine performance, there were few positives to take away from the thwarting.
After the game talkSPORT’s Simon Jordan even branded the 50-year-old the ‘international Ole Gunnar Solskjær.’
“I think he’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in an international guise,” the former Crystal Palace owner said.
“I think it’s the bland leading the bland, but I think also he’s a decent communicator and decent football man.
“But there comes a point where it’s, ‘are you getting the inspiration from these players?’
“System is one thing but how you play within it is another. Look at the way Grealish approached the game and look at the tempo that he played in. He would have got the ball anywhere on the pitch as that’s where his mindset was.”
It’s fair to say that there are similarities between Southgate and the Manchester United manager, both lacked experience when hired by their respective employers. However, they both guided their teams out of the holes they were in when they took over.
For Southgate, that was fixing the national team’s reputation, after Sam Allardyce’s inappropriate conduct which landed him in hot water, and subsequently dismissed from his role, after just 67 days and one match.
At the time, the former England international Southgate wouldn’t have been the first choice of many, but he was available, and he’s done a good job. Whilst we will never truly know, you could probably argue that he has done a much better job than Allardyce, who is known for his defensive tactics, would have done.
Given the wide range of talent at Southgate’s disposal, he is never going to be able to please every England fan with his team selections – whether that’s down to fans of certain clubs thinking that their star players should be in the line-up or personal opinions on who is better than who.
Look at the constant selection of Mason Mount for example. Every time the young Chelsea midfielder is selected by Southgate, England fans rage on social media. However, in recent times, the 21-year-old has performed admirably for both the Three Lions and the Blues, even finding the net in a couple of England’s latest outings.
Whilst it’s fairly clear that the Three Lions need to improve if they want to challenge for the Euros next summer, to brand Southgate a ‘fraud’ is unfair given how far he has taken this team, and he more than deserves to be the man to lead England into the upcoming major tournament.