Dismal weeks have gone by and the time has arrived for some proper football work in the England national team to be done.
Sam Allardyce was given a boot after revelations by The Daily Telegraph of England now former boss’ willingness to engage himself into circumventions of Football Association rules on third-party ownership and his generally unprofessional and illegal behaviour with the former England international Gareth Southgate being seated into the hot chair at the most inconvenient moment possible.
Often portrayed as a protected, cosseted establishment man Southgate showed great courage when accepting the role of interim manager. Following his first couple of days in charge, a mere glance on his conduct, manner and behaviour offers great insight into his dedication to make it work however.
Given the circumstances no one should keep their hopes too high, but Gareth Southgate’s honest love for the game perhaps makes him the perfect man in charge ahead of a clash with Malta which England stand at 1/8 betting odds to claim a HT/FT win.
Well-bred and suited for the role
A modest footballing career is behind Gareth Southgate, the 46-year-old former defender of Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. Modest by all means when taken into comparison to his more prominent peers, colleagues, teammates.
Modesty did not leave him during his early managerial days as well. Three years in charge of Middlesbrough gave him enough of an education to recommend him for England youth ranks where he performed manager roles of U21 and U20 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
He successfully led England U21s to the European Championship finals in 2015, but was seemingly never considered a long-term choice or a man who could go on to make his presence known at the big stage.
Therefore his introduction with the England senior team and the caretaker role he was presented with were taken with a huge pinch of salt by the high-expecting English footballing community.
What Southgate went on to do, during his first press conference and onwards might have made plenty of critics change their mind, though. Southgate avoided slogans and catchphrases as he spoke in images proclaiming his ever-lasting love for the game.
Determined to make it in “an industry he doesn’t like” former Middlesbrough player and boss is keen to extend his love for the sport. And it might just be what England needs at this moment.
Southgate’s choices speak volumes
England caretaker showed no lack of courage as he decided to shake things up with the squad.
Southgate reintroduced Manchester United sensation Marcus Rashford, whose demotion to the age-group was explained by his limited chances in the senior squad, and fans are right to expect an improved role for the 18-year-old under new boss.
Harry Kane’s absence due to injury and Rashford’s three goals in five Man United appearances give a good reasoning for such a decision from Southgate.
And while Rashford’s inclusion could have been anticipated, the addition of Jesse Lingard as another young gun among the senior set-up is a clear message of intent. Lingard has been a mainstay for United thus far in the season and one of the brightest sparks in Mourinho’s team which makes Southgate’s inclusion a worthy and well deserved reward.
Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley in the meantime remain high-profile absentees with neither one of them having made a strong case for a return, making such a decision not a surprising one.
Glen Jonhson’s inclusion however was exactly that – shock and surprise. Stoke City right-back hasn’t played for England since 2014 and has just returned to the Stoke fold as well. There were plenty of other candidates for the role, candidates with better statistics and influence in their teams this season, but Southgate’s decision is the one where he once again showed he won’t be pushed over into selection.
Unfortunately for Johnson, an injury will prevent him from making a comeback for England, but fans should rest assured that Burnley defender Michael Keane, who replaced the Stoke man, will perhaps make an even better solution.
Can Gareth Southgate make his case?
England have nothing to lose with the young gun Gareth Southgate. The 46-year-old manager looks like he just might put on his England shirt and jump on the pitch all over again, but his young appearance hides the true story of a well-educated man in a football sense.
He does not offer the Allardyce’s loud way and bombastic approach of any kind, but his insights into Wayne Rooney’s intellectual development and Lingard being the best England player under pressure offer a different perspective that England got used to seeing.
The FA will surely be hard to convince. Their point of view has rarely been different than a conviction that only a man of 60 years plus can offer enough of experience to guide the team forward, which at this point in time makes Arsene Wenger a perfect candidate.
Gareth Southgate’s somewhat ordinary background certainly makes him an odd man to inherit the role on permanent basis, but plenty of contemporary football’s stories are here to provide Gareth Southgate will plenty of optimism to boost his confidence with.
Jose Mourinho and his beginnings as the first of them all, Pep Guardiola’s as well, Jurgen Klopp as no exemption from the rule. Unlike the club managers who went on to build their managerial careers by beating the odds at the club level however, Gareth Southgate has only four games to hit the ground and make his case.
Will it be enough?