The FA confirmed the appointment of Gareth Southgate as new permanent #England manager on Wednesday. The news had been long expected following the conclusion of Southgate’s four-match audition for the role earlier in November. His contract runs until 2020 and is reported to be worth close to £2 million per year.
Southgate is taking on a huge challenge, particularly after the year England have had. The national team hit rock bottom not once but twice earlier this year. The stats suggest otherwise: England have won eight, drawn four and lost just two games in 2016. But they mask failings when it has mattered most.
First, there was the Euro 2016 debacle. Despite having stuttered through the group stage as runners up to Wales, England were heavy favourites to beat Iceland in the last 16 and reach the quarter-finals. They produced a dreadful performance and were defeated 2-1 by a country without a professional league and with a population of just 300,000.
Somehow, things got worse from there. Manager Roy Hodgson paid for the Iceland humiliation with his job, with Sam Allardyce hired as his replacement. When he was subsequently dismissed for openly discussing how to circumvent FA rules around agent fees and player transfers, England were in complete disarray.
Southgate has since restored a sense of calmness and respectability. He will now need to inspire if England are to perform well at the next major tournament: World Cup 2018.
The stand-out candidate
In truth, Southgate was the clear favourite for the job as soon as he took charge following Allardyce’s acrimonious departure after just 67 days. Provided Southgate could steady the ship, which he has, the job was always likely to be his.
He should take credit for a relatively successful spell as interim boss. He oversaw convincing home wins in World Cup Qualifiers against Malta and Scotland, as well as creditable draws away in Slovenia and versus Spain in a friendly.
Southgate is a very likeable man. He has handled himself with great dignity since being thrust into the job. He is seen as a safe pair of hands as England manager, having spent a lot of time around the national set-up.
Capped 57 times as a central defender, Southgate first worked for the FA in a non-playing capacity as Head of Youth Development in 2011, before being appointed coach of the Under-21 side in 2013. After overseeing a poor campaign in the 2015 Euros, Southgate guided them to victory in this year’s Toulon tournament. As a result of his time in charge of the Under-21s, Southgate has a strong relationship with several players set to star for the senior side in years to come.
He has been unanimously backed by the England squad, including captain Wayne Rooney. Rooney’s support comes in spite of Southgate’s brave decision to drop him prior to the Slovenia game due to poor form. It was a ruthless move that had proved beyond previous England managers.
No longer the top job
While Southgate was seemingly the only candidate for the job, he is clearly raw compared to predecessors. The previous three managers, namely Allardyce, Hodgson and Fabio Capello, were all hugely experienced club managers before taking on the England role. But each of their reigns ended in disgrace, so the FA has understandably chosen a different route.
Still, Southgate’s managerial record leaves a lot to be desired for supposedly the pinnacle of English #Football. His only experience at club level was at Middlesbrough, who he led to relegation prior to being sacked. His club win percentage is the lowest of any England manager.
The sad fact is that the job is no longer sought-after by the best coaches. They prefer to manage in club football, where there is more money, not to mention a high-profile, pressurised game every few days. They like to work with players 24/7 and have control over who they work with through transfers. The likes of Pep Guardiola, Arsène Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Jürgen Klopp have never dipped into international management.