England, a footballing nation that has been nurtured into failure, underachievement and pessimism all too often. The poisoned chalice that is the England’s manager job has made a mockery of almost everyone within the last few decades, not discriminating against background, age, reputation or nationality. For years now the divide between fans, the media and the team seems to be getting greater and greater and greater. But now, the unity between all parties seems to be getting stronger and stronger, which makes me think….
Has football already come home?
The man who has helped bring the nation together, is one Gareth Southgate.
In recent years, England players of yesteryear have spoken of some of the external pressures of playing for England, and how toxic an environment it could be at times. Yet Southgate has deflected all of the pressures and scapegoatism away from his players and onto his own back.
When Sam Allardyce was prematurely relieved of his duties as England manager back in September 2016, the appointment of Gareth Southgate seemed a fairly dull, uninspiring appointment from the outset looking in. A “yes man” who wouldn’t speak out against his employers, someone who wouldn’t rustle any feathers and is dispensable should England fail to turn up in Russia.
However, Southgate has proved everyone wrong. This England team hasn’t shied away from the external pressures of their international roles, making sure each player address the media, play forward-thinking, high risk, high reward football, something that the England faithful have been craving for far too long.
Now, England fans and even some of the mainstream media now have an international team they can associate with and be proud of. The core values and the philosophy of representing the country are now completely contrasting to those of fallen England sides of yesteryear. For years upon years, it’s been about “how do we accommodate Rooney/Gerrard/Lampard into the team?” focusing more on personnel instead of system. Southgate has a clear tactical plan, and seems to have installed a selection philosophy built on merit.
The cliche of “he needs to go, he’s got experience that England will need” has been squashed by Southgate, who seems determined to put the demons of recent times behind them. Last night was a prime example of the new England, and the mentality Southgate is trying to install into the team, conceding in the last minute, going all the way to penalties and keeping cool heads in the midst of Colombia’s dark arts and a headbutt thrown in there as well, yes, an actual headbutt. The courage England shown to remain composed despite going behind in the shootout was very very mature, especially for such a young England team, a feat that evaded seasoned veterans such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney etc in recent years.
The decisions to leave former England mainstays such as Jack Wilshere and Joe Hart were very brave, and of course time will tell whether it was the right decision.
For a man who was chastised by a nation for years upon years after his Euro ’96 penalty miss, Southgate demonstrates no fear, a man who has nothing to lose who has dared to do, and challenged the stereotypes of the England National Team.
Thank You Mr Southgate, for bringing back our England, and bringing back belief.
Dare to dream.