Gareth Southgate admits his “dream” of lifting the World Cup made it impossible to walk away from the England job.
Southgate, 51, will have been in charge for eight years by the end of his new contract in December 2024 and firmly believes the squad is good enough to win trophies.
Three Lions boss Southgate did not shut the door on one day becoming a club boss but says the current generation gives him hope England can win their first World Cup since 1966.
Southgate said: “We’ve only ever won one World Cup and we still have the belief that that’s possible. It’s of course incredibly difficult because in international football, you get one opportunity to win a trophy every couple of years but it is possible.
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“You want to have a go. It’s an aim we should have as a team and to step away at a moment where we still think the next few years can be very exciting.
“We are allowed to dream and we have set ourselves high challenges. Did we think four years ago that we would be sitting here on the back of a semi-final and a final? I think we could have all hoped but it might not have been a realistic dream four years ago.
“We are in a group of teams that get to those stages in competitions. If, ultimately, success is only going to be boiled down to winning then maybe we are in for a lot of years of disappointment.
“Only one team can win every two years and only five or six countries seem to have won World Cups over a period of time. But that has to be our ambition.”
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Southgate’s five years in charge has seen remarkable progress because he inherited a team at its lowest point after losing to Iceland in Euro 2016, Sam Allardyce’s ill-fated reign of one game in charge and yet he has restored pride to the team.
England reached the World Cup semi final in 2018, the Euros final last summer and yet Southgate’s biggest achievement has arguably to restore the connection with the fans. The former England defender has made the Impossible Job possible.
“There has been times where perhaps the dream when you are with England is just to survive,” said Southgate. “There’s been times where I’ve played with England where we travelled away and you were worried about walking over to the away fans because you weren’t sure the reaction you were going to get.
“Yu were worried about picking the paper up the next day because maybe the team were going to be torn to shreds because of the performance.”
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The new contract very deliberately takes Southgate an his No2 Steve Holland up to December 2024 as that will take them past the next World Cup and Euros but they will not go into the latter with all the questions about whether they will stay on. Instead, they will have six months’ grace.
Southgate then admits he will think about a club job. “So if this contract is the last, I’d still only be 53, I think, at the end of it,” he said. “I’m hoping there’s still quite a lot of my life to live beyond that.
“But I was very happy to commit to a project because you get to a point where they can challenge, then you want to bring that to fruition. … I think that (walking away) would have been difficult to live with.”