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England manager Southgate has full support, says FA chair

SoccerNews in World Cup 21 Jun 2022

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Gareth Southgate has the full support of the Football Association after chair Debbie Hewitt provided an impassioned defence of the “high IQ” and emotionally intelligent England manager.

England have made it to the World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 showpiece under Southgate, the latter of which the Three Lions’ first final appearance at a major tournament in 55 years.

But pressure has mounted after a dismal start to their Nations League campaign in June, losing to Hungary twice either side of draws with Germany and Italy to leave England in danger of relegation.

The most recent 4-0 thrashing to Hungary was the first time England have lost a home match by four or more goals since March 1928, when they lost 5-1 to Scotland.

Hungary also became the first team to score four goals in an away match against England since the Hungarians themselves won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953.

Frustrated supporters could be heard chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Molineux towards Southgate, who later vowed to not out-stay his welcome in charge.

With the World Cup in Qatar just five months away, Hewitt was quick to outline her support for the 51-year-old despite ongoing questions over his tactics.

“My personal opinion on Gareth is that he is, by the facts on the pitch, the most successful England manager we’ve had for 55 years,” Hewitt told reporters at a news conference.

“The bit people don’t see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he’s created.

“Certainly prior to Gareth being the manager of England, there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt. There were the club rivalries we’d read about. The players not getting on.

“He’s changed that beyond recognition and I’ve seen that first hand.

“I’d also say that I don’t just work in football, I work in business and I’ve worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth’s skills — his high IQ and high EQ — would make him a chief exec in any sphere.

“That resilience and accountability [are] the two qualities I admire most. There are no slopy shoulders, he doesn’t huff, he’s resilient and that’s what you want in an England manager.”

While offering her support publicly, Hewitt says the reaction of Southgate to private conversations expressing the FA’s backing also highlighted his credible demeanour.

“Gareth’s reaction, as in everything with that sort of conversation, was that it is his accountability, there’s always something to learn,” she continued.

“That’s why it’s refreshing working with somebody like that because that openness to learn is quite remarkable and quite unusual in any sphere.”

Southgate took charge, initially as caretaker manager, in 2016 and impressed after Sam Allardyce’s one-game tenure, with the former Middlesbrough manager earning the permanent job.

After England qualified for the World Cup in Qatar with victory over San Marino in November 2021, Southgate was handed a three-year extension, keeping him as Three Lions’ manager until December 2024.

The World Cup will start just one year after he signed the long-term extension and debate has been sparked over whether conducting negotiations was sensible before the results and performances in that tournament are known, but Hewitt assures the correct decision was made.

“I don’t think we would be discussing [the contract] had we not had the recent series of games. Clearly, we did that [agreed the new deal] with proper discussion and thought,” she added.

“The fact that there’s been a stumble does not make us automatically say ‘should we have given him a contract?’ It is a red herring.

“We have confidence in Gareth for all the reasons I described and I think that’s the important thing. And it’s particularly important going into the biggest tournament.”

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