An evening with Gareth Southgate
Football Journalism student, Ciaran Lavender met interim England manager Gareth Southgate as part of his course at the University of Derby.
In an exclusive Q and A with Southgate, Lavender was able to quiz Southgate about recent tournament failures, the psychology of the national team and current U21 team. From this work the students were able to get their professional pieces of work published in the Guardian and the Sun.
Southgate will know more than anyone else about the failures that England have suffered in the past and he is yet again at the forefront of an English failure as he has been given the responsibility of leading a squad still reeling from the embarrassment of the Euros. Southgate feels as though the inexperience of the squad is a major reason as to why England weren’t able to make a mark in the most recent tournaments. Southgate said: “I think one of the concerns I had about the team going into the summer was that there was not a lot of big match experience. If you look at Spain and Germany, their guys have huge international experience but also most of their players at Madrid and Barcelona are challenging for the league every year.” His point is proven because if you look at the starting eleven against Iceland, seven of the players have no European experience and only Jamie Vardy had the most recent experience of winning a very unexpected league title. When you compare this to the highly talented squads of Spain or Germany, the squad is filled with title winners and as our squad are still young it’s going to take a few more years before England will be on that level.
Southgate also dismissed the theory that England players simply do not care when it comes to representing their country at a major tournament. Southgate stated: “I think it is the easiest thing to say ‘they don’t care, they’re not running around’ and I didn’t play in a dressing room where the players didn’t care, they all cared.” Instead the interim manager believes that where the psychology of our national team is suffering is the lack of confidence that runs through our team created from the pressure of succeeding. This pressure comes through a combined force of the English media and the fans who both expect massively from the team, and the players know that failing to get any kind of result will bring a very negative atmosphere. Instead Southgate believes that we need to ditch the expectancy of success and come to the realisation that we may not win anything for a few years with our main hope of a trophy is by “doing a Portugal”.
Whilst there is the usual doom and gloom surrounding the senior team Southgate also shone light on the development of the U21s team, a team that he successfully managed to win the Toulon cup with this summer. Southgate said “With the U21’s we’ve tried to develop as many leaders as possible, and that involves giving people as much responsibility as we can.” The development of leadership through the ranks is highly important when you look at the current senior squad as the only leader we really have is Wayne Rooney. Southgate believes that Rooney has “lead a bit too much, a lot of responsibilities have rested on his shoulders” this shows how vital it is for us to bring in natural leaders through the U21 team. Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse have been singled out as two players that shine in the leadership role and both look to have positive futures for the national team.
Southgate will finish the four games he has in charge when he faces Scotland and Spain this week and he insists he is only thinking of these two games and not the permanent role. When asked about his experience as interim manager Southgate answered: “Whatever happens I will have had an incredible life experience which will have made me a better manager no question.”
Written by Ciaran Lavender