Gareth Southgate’s team approach winning hearts and minds, as well as games
What we find extremely masterful is the team approach. When it comes to reflecting on the success to date of the England team at the Euro 2020 tournament, played out during this summer of ‘21. Many of us still remember the successes of the England team of ’96, when many of its top players, their successful and lucrative careers at sudden death penalty shootout in the semi-final.
What stands out with this 2021 team is the team. Each player is very comfortable playing alongside their teammate. The England team manager has cultivated a team spirit and the virtues of possession and positioning, not known skills of previous England sides.
We all remember the England teams of the past, where they had plenty of big names and undroppable stars such as Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and Co. These were teams that never really seemed to gel together, epitomised by the assumption that you couldn’t play Gerrard and Lampard on the same side. The end result was a team of superstar players, followed by the team of superstar WAGs, who never brought the level of performance they were able to produce for their clubs to the white shirt. Some might say the introduction of the WAGs was a total distraction for the fans, the players and the media. We all remember the carefully choreographed ‘impromptu’ photos of the WAGs out and about.
When appointed England manager in 2016, Southgate dispensed with many of the traps previous England managers had fallen into. He dispensed with the need to play the big superstars and brought together a young team of promising players and developed a style of play which suited them.
He also developed a better team spirit, and the most noticeable attribute of Southgate’s England is that the players seem highly motivated to play well and play as a team.
Along with the results on the field, this new approach also had the effect of helping the English public get behind the team in a way they haven’t done for a very long time. The level of support for the England team since Southgate took over increased enormously, particularly among the middle class. Even here in Ireland, this England team is not as hated as it usually is, by a long way.
Southgate’s quiet and respectful personality also played a role in this, as did the story of how he got the job. Though a diligent manager of the England Under-21s team for many years, he was always best known for missing the penalty in a shoot-out against Germany which put England out of Euro ’96.
He was never meant to be England manager, having got the job by accident when Sam Allardyce was sacked after a major scandal. Many doubted him at first, but in 2018 he led England to their first World Cup Semi Final since 1990.
With England now in their second consecutive semi final at major tournaments, Southgate is the most successful England manager since Sir Alf Ramsey.
England cam into this tournament as one of the favourites, and Southgate has done a serious job of work in ensuring that while the media and fans are forever chanting ‘’football’s coming home,’’ the team itself is laser-focused on the task in hand. They haven’t yet conceded a goal, haven’t needed extra time, and have shown their trust in their manager by sticking rigidly to his game plan.
In return, Southgate has trusted his players, particularly Harry Kane, who seemed out of form at the start of the tournament but who has now banged in three in the last two games.
Southgate and his England team have undoubtedly won over the hearts and minds of the English public, but you can be sure they’re 100% focused on winning the tournament.