Editorial

Youthful Experience Will Help England, Says Gareth Southgate

 

The England manager’s job has always been considered one of the most bittersweet in men’s football. The role and the expectation that comes with it has been too much for some of the best managers in football. In fact, it’s difficult to think of any modern England manager who has gone on to have sustained success after leaving the post. The phrase “poisoned chalice” is often cited about the job by parts of the media – or, at least, that used to be the case. Today’s England camp has a different feel about it, with much of the credit going to the zen-like demeanour of manager Gareth Southgate.

Southgate’s reception as England boss, by both the fans and the media, has been positive. He is approaching five years now in a role. Not bad, when many considered him a placeholder when first appointed. But much of the goodwill has been down to the fact that Southgate has, in the past, managed a side about whom there have been low expectations. The run to the World Cup Semi-Finals in 2018 was lauded as an underdog story. In truth, it wasn’t.

England favourites for first major trophy in over 50 years

But there is a shift change now, and that means a different set of expectations for Southgate to manage. England, according to the odds at online sport betting site 888sport, are the 5/1 favourites for the postponed Euro 2020 this summer. There is no sense of them being underdogs, and there will be nowhere to hide. As the old saying goes – England expects.

And yet, there is no sense of the pressure getting to Southgate. In a recent interview with The Sun, Southgate spoke of his hopes and expectations around the tournament (11th June – 11th July) this summer. The manager spoke of the remarkable pool of talent at his disposal and how that sets England up, not just for this summer, but for years to come.

Indeed, it is the success of the England players at youth level that gives Southgate confidence that he can succeed in the coming years. If there is any weakness in the current England set-up, it is the lack of experience of some of the squad. But Southgate extolled the youthful experience of some of his starlets. Namely, that many of them have already tasted international success before, albeit at underage level.

England youngsters have experience beyond their years

Moreover, there is the sense that many of Southgate’s players are older than their years. Phil Foden (20), the Manchester City youngster tipped for greatness, plays with the commanding presence of a veteran ten years his senior. Similar things can be said about Declan Rice (22) and Jude Bellingham (17). Even though it is one of the youngest squads England brings to a major tournament in modern history, many of the players are accustomed to making Champions League appearances and many are Premier League champions.

In short, the team might be young – but it isn’t green. It is thus an exciting time for England fans, but it piles the pressure on Southgate. The 50-year-old has seemed unflappable – a rarity for an England manager – in the face of the media glare. But that could change if his young guns don’t fire this summer. In that interview with the Sun, Southgate was at pains to say that he was still building for future success – the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, 2026 in North America. But if he doesn’t show a blueprint for that success this summer, he might not get the opportunity to see out his grand plan.

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