Gareth Southgate feels “hugely fortunate” to have the opportunity to manage England after initially turning down the job in 2016.
Southgate had been working as England Under-21s manager when Roy Hodgson departed after a dreadful European Championship campaign, but he opted not to take up the senior role, which instead went to Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce’s subsequent sacking amid off-field controversy thrust Southgate into the spotlight as he impressed in an interim role, going on to secure the job full-time before guiding England to the World Cup and now the last 16.
Although his stock has never been higher, the former Middlesbrough boss acknowledges it was not a foregone conclusion that he would get another chance to lead his country.
“I feel hugely fortunate now,” Southgate said ahead of Thursday’s Group G clash with Belgium.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to do [after the Euros]. I wanted it to go well for Roy, just as I later wanted it to go well for Sam.
“I didn’t think, when Roy left, there’d be any enthusiasm for an internal appointment. I knew that my record with Middlesbrough – even though, for me, what I achieved with them in the first two years was better than anything I’ve done in the last couple of weeks – would be held against me as a manager.
“You’re always judged on results without necessarily all of the context and all the understanding of where you are, that you’re learning.
57 – The only permanent England manager to have won more caps as a player for England than Gareth Southgate (57) is Kevin Keegan (63). Pride pic.twitter.com/elVczyuC5n
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 30, 2016
“But I remember [then Wales manager] Chris Coleman after the European Championships, saying, ‘You’ve got to go for things in life and not be afraid to fail.’
“That resonated with me because I’d probably just ruled myself out of taking on the job. If I was talking to young people or my own kids, I would be saying exactly those things, but I wasn’t living it myself.
“So I felt, then, actually I had to make sure that, if there are opportunities in life, you’ve got to go for them.
“Even as a young player, you maybe only get one World Cup. You assume there’ll be more, but you might only get one because of an injury or something else.”
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