Tag Archives: Wembley

Give England job to the ‘Anti-Sam’

The ever-increasing probability of Gareth Southgate’s promotion to permanent England manager faces its final obstacle when Scotland visit Wembley.

As Matt Law reported earlier this week, barring a first defeat to the ‘auld enemy’ since 1999, The FA plans to formally appoint Southgate after the latest international break concludes with England’s friendly against Spain.

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Southgate watches over England training at St. George’s Park. Pic. The Guardian.

The former central defender’s elevation has been met with scoffs and wry smiles alike throughout certain areas of the media.

Likewise, England supporters have been quick to display their lack of faith, through radio phone-ins, in the 46-year-old’s character.

Yet for every claim of Southgate serving only as an FA puppet, put in place as a PR move to calm the choppy waters created by Sam Allardyce’s dismissal, the former Middlesbrough manager can prove otherwise.

Southgate’s public persona is different to that of other managers.

His measured approach to reporter’s questions and intelligent manner whilst working as a pundit, breaks the mold of bashful characters such as Allardyce. In this respect Southgate is the Anti-Sam.

Intelligence within football has often been misconstrued as softness. Someone who dances to their own beat and displays a hint of quirkiness will, wrongly, raise eyebrows.

Strength of mind

Yet no player can survive in professional football having played upwards of 500 senior games, by being a soft touch. This insinuation about the former Crystal Palace defender simply isn’t true.

His decision to drop (or protect) captain Wayne Rooney for the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia, served to confirm Southgate’s strength of mind.

Steve McClaren had attempted the same tactic in 2006, by not picking David Beckham in his first squad as England manager. But the current England manager’s decision to address the media head on, sitting alongside Rooney, also demonstrated class and consideration for his players’ state of mind.

Modern players at the highest level will respond positively to a manager who shows they care about them, and Southgate clearly understands this. Rooney, who has many years of big-game experience, has been assured of his starting place against the Scots, another indication of his manager’s ability to ‘know his players’.

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Wayne Rooney will start tonight’s game, Southgate has confirmed. Pic. The Guardian.

Gaining such knowledge around the mindset of young people, some of who are 20 years his junior, comes as a bi-product of years of experience within The FA’s infrastructure.

Appointed as Head of Elite Development in 2011, the man who represented his country 57 times would later become England Under 21s manager in 2013.

Southgate’s reign saw the development and progression of players such as John Stones, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane into the full squad, as well as a tournament victory in Toulon during the summer; the first for 22 years.

Euro 2016 proved that England are a long way from winning a major tournament.

The FA’s mission of reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020, followed by the aim of becoming World Champions in 2022 appeared in tatters as Roy Hodgson’s team lay dejected amongst the Viking-clapping Icelandic team.

But the mission still has six years until completion, so why stop now? And who better to take the reigns than someone who understands from top to bottom, exactly what the aim is and the process in place to achieve it.

A long list of clubs and national federations have successfully promoted from within in recent years, creating a pathway for former players to learn their trade within age-group football, before stepping into first-team management.

That is by no means to suggest that herein lays the magic formula to success; there are many variables that determine the outcome of any appointment.

But as an intelligent, media-savvy, strong-minded and experienced coach with a working knowledge of young players, England should look no further than Southgate.

‘There was no way I was staying at home’

Days after the Paris terror attacks, two footballing nations came together in an international friendly at Wembley in a spirit of solidarity and defiance as England hosted France.

Two of the French players,  midfielder Lassana Diarra and striker Antoine Griezmann, had family members caught up in the dreadful events on November 13.  Diarra lost his cousin, while Griezmann’s sister managed to escape from the Bataclan Theatre.

“Tonight is not about football, we are all here to show we are not afraid”

Both stayed with the squad for the England match and tweeted: “In this climate of terror, it is important for all of us who represent our country and its diversity to stay united against a horror which has no colour, no religion.”

The match went ahead amidst a massive security operation to guarantee the safety of everyone attending, but the climate of fear generated by the attacks and other terror alerts across Europe failed to put fans off from flocking to the national stadium.

As one England told me: “There was no was I was staying at home.

“If I didn’t turn up tonight I may as well not go to work tomorrow, I may as well not go to another football match ever again, may as well stay indoors for the rest of my life. I think we will see loads of fans here tonight. We can’t let the terrorists think we’re scared.”

‘The right decision’

You could feel the tension as fans gathered before the game; everyone seemed on edge but there the two sets of fans spoke as one.

A French fan who had travelled from Lyon said: “Tonight is not about football, we are all here to show we are not afraid.”

“My biggest memory of the night will be seeing two nations standing shoulder to shoulder following the awful events in Paris”

Another English supporter from Manchester echoed the thoughts of many when he said: “Football’s my passion. Obviously I was a bit indecisive about coming tonight but I think it was the right decision.

“My wife didn’t want me to come, she will be worrying until I get home tonight, but I couldn’t miss this. It’s my first England match and this was a birthday present, I hope nothing kicks off tonight and we get the win.”

As the game drew closer to kick off, both sets of supporters started to bellow out their national anthems. When the players made their way on to the pitch, a huge mosaic of the French flag was created by England supporters in one section of seating.

The minute’s silence and the singing of the anthems really did pull the heartstrings of thousands around the ground. Both sets of fans stood in unity and sang the French national anthem La Marseillaise together.

The game itself ended as a 2-0 win for England but the result didn’t matter. My biggest memory of the night will be seeing two nations standing shoulder to shoulder following the awful events in Paris.