England will not find a better manager than Gareth Southgate… and Southgate may not find a better job than England

GARETH SOUTHGATE went to Qatar believing this World Cup would probably represent his endgame.

Had England bombed spectacularly, or even progressed to the latter stages while failing to excite the nation, he would have recognised  he had outstayed his welcome after six years in charge.

Dan CharityGareth Southgate’s standing is arguably higher than ever[/caption]

Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka had excellent tournaments for England, while Jack Grealish also has time to developRex

And if the Three Lions had lifted  the trophy, there is no doubt that he would have waved a fond farewell, bathed in glory.

The only scenario which would have tempted him to stay was one such as this — glorious failure, the nagging sense of ‘what might have been’ and the tantalising prospect of what might be still to come at the Euros in Germany 18 months from now.

Young players such as Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice and Phil Foden enjoyed very good tournaments and they will be better still by the summer of 2024.

So after four fearless, thrilling performances out of five here, including Saturday’s loss to France’s world champions, Southgate is tempted to go again.



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Even in the immediate aftermath of England’s elimination, as the exhaustion of tournament management hit home and the agony of Harry Kane’s late penalty miss wounded him, Southgate was level-headed.

He knew he needed time to think properly about whether he still has the mental energy and supreme motivation to take the Three Lions through another qualifying campaign.

Whether, after 13 years away from  club management, that is what he  truly wants.

So as Southgate considers his future — and this is entirely his own decision, the FA and his players are desperate for him to stay — it is worth understanding that this was his starting point.


Travelling over to Qatar, Southgate  felt unpopular.

Those howls from the  Wolves, when England were marmalised 4-0 by Hungary and then booed off by the Molineux crowd in June, were still ringing in his ears.

Days before that Nations League defeat, England’s worst at home for almost a century, Southgate had been unusually prickly in the face of criticism, tired by the accusations of over-caution and negativity.

A couple of tweets from Gary Lineker during the 1-1  draw with Germany in Munich a week earlier had really stuck in his craw.

Southgate, self-aware and emotionally mature, knows that every manager has a shelf life and he understood that public opinion was turning against him.

So he was likely to quit after Qatar, take a break and hopefully find an appealing club job next summer.

And while there will always be pub bores and keyboard warriors demanding Southgate is axed, the England boss left Qatar with renewed respect from most.

Yes, just like the Golden Generation, England lost in the quarter-finals to the first world-class team they encountered.

But this felt different. It was, as Southgate recognised, England’s best performance against elite opposition during his time in charge.

Had Kane equalised with that penalty, the Three Lions had an excellent chance to dethrone the world champions and even win the tournament.

When he reviews England’s campaign, both privately and in an FA debrief, Southgate will find plenty to persuade him to stay, a renewed boldness and  positivity, a sense of renewal for a regime which had threatened to turn stale.

There is no credible, gettable English alternative to Southgate and the FA are loath to go for a foreign manager.

Southgate is a loyal man, with a quiet patriotism, a keen sense of national duty, and a strong affinity with a group of players who hold him in great esteem.

The FA are desperate for him to stay because he makes them look good.

On and off the field, Southgate has restored pride in the England team after decades of farce — three good tournaments for a likeable team with a social conscience, guided by a thoroughly decent boss.

There is no credible, gettable English alternative to Southgate and the FA are loath to go for a foreign manager having invested so much in St George’s Park, their national hub, and their coaching pathways.

One key factor in whether Southgate stays or goes will be the thoughts of his assistant, Steve Holland.

Southgate regards them very much as a managerial duo, always referring to ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.

They have been together for a decade and they complement each other — Southgate the good cop, Holland the bad cop, Southgate the man-manager and ambassador, Holland the tactician and disciplinarian.

They are likely to end up in club management together whenever their England tenure ends.

And while the England post is very much a full-time job for Southgate — as he is so invested in St George’s Park and everything it represents — Holland is often frustrated by the lack of time he spends on the training pitch as an international coach.

Yet how good a club job might Southgate, and Holland, actually get next year? Of the top jobs in the Premier League — the Big Six plus Newcastle — perhaps only Tottenham but that would depend on Antonio Conte leaving and Mauricio Pochettino not returning.

A job abroad? Perhaps, but Southgate is not a globe-trotting multi-linguist like Roy Hodgson.

So would he want to jack in  the chance of leading England at the  Euros for a fair-to-middling Premier League job?

Because the truth is the FA can find no better manager than Southgate — and Southgate may find no better employer than the FA.

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