Monday, December 4, 2023

England make a decision about Southgate’s future

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Sportsmail reported on Saturday night that there was growing optimism from within the ENGLAND FA that Southgate would remain as national team boss.

And the 52-year-old will confirm his decision to the FA in the coming days to bring an end to speculation over his future. He is set to tell FA bosses that he will stay on for the final two years of his contract.

Southgate confirmed after last Saturday’s loss to France in the World Cup quarter final that he was considering his future.

But a week on, and after consulting those closest to him – who felt he was edging that way – the England boss has decided to see the team through the Euro 2024 campaign.

The news comes as a major boost to the FA, who were desperate for him to stay in charge given the excellent work he has completed to transform England into an elite playing nation, and there is now no need to launch a search for a new manager.

He was encouraged that the public mood seems to have turned in his favour, despite the team’s elimination from the World Cup against France last weekend.

Southgate was greatly affected by the reaction of the public on his return to England, sensing the positivity gleaned from how well England played and the nation’s desire to see the team on the front foot.

England’s leading players have also urged him to stay on after the France defeat and have messaged him to reiterate that. Southgate is likely to feel that he would be letting them down if he were to quit now.

However, it is clear that he went into the tournament expecting to quit. He had already hinted at how badly affected he was by the booing at Molineux last June after the 4-0 defeat by Hungary and by the groundswell of negativity towards him.

According to the report in The Sunday Times that Southgate planned to see out his contract, in a story written by Southgate’s biographer, the manager was close to announcing then that he would quit after the World Cup.

His thinking was that if the fans knew he would be going it would take the heat out of the situation. His assistant Steve Holland talked him out of that.

Last week though Southgate has noted how balanced media and public reaction has been to the disappointment of elimination.

Unlike with the Euro 2020 final, when the occasion was marred by hooliganism, racist social media attacks on players and an anger towards Southgate, this has been a more unifying experience, the consensus opinion being that England pushed the world champions to their limits.

There has only been a very small backlash against Southgate. It means Southgate will be back at helm in March in a tricky Euro 2024 qualifying game against Italy in Naples, followed by a home match at Wembley against Ukraine.

With just 18 months to go until Euro 2024 and with Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden now establishing themselves as key to the England team, the temptation to continue has been pretty obvious.

With France and England now looking the strongest sides on the continent in terms of squad depth and quality and it would be uncharacteristic of Southgate to duck that challenge.

When the FA sacked Roy Hodgson in 2016, Southgate initially ruled himself out of the running, which saw Sam Allardyce appointed.

Southgate quickly regretted that and so put himself forward when Allardyce was sacked after just 67 days, explaining that he urged his children to take risks and accept challenges and so he couldn’t then shirk such a huge opportunity.

It seems he is currently in a similar mindset. Leaving now would be a job half done.

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