The Football Association has backed Gareth Southgate following England’s disappointing Nations League results this month and reassured the manager that his position is safe.
Southgate’s side took just two points from their four Nations League fixtures, and were beaten home and away by Hungary. The 4-0 defeat at Molineux was England’s biggest home defeat in 94 years.
England are three points behind third-placed Italy in their four-team group with just two matches remaining, meaning they are in real danger of being relegated from the Nations League’s top tier.
However, Southgate’s job is currently safe and he remains the manager the FA wants to lead England into the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
“My personal opinion on Gareth is that he is, by the facts on the pitch, the most successful England manager we’ve had for 55 years,” Debbie Hewitt, who took over as FA chair in January, said.
“The bit people don’t see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he’s created.
“Certainly prior to Gareth being the manager of England, there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt. There were the club rivalries we’d read about. The players not getting on.
“He’s changed that beyond recognition and I’ve seen that first hand.
“I’d also say that I don’t just work in football, I work in business and I’ve worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth’s skills – his high IQ and high EQ – would make him a chief exec in any sphere.
“That resilience and accountability (are) the two qualities I admire most. There are no slopey shoulders, he doesn’t huff, he’s resilient and that’s what you want in an England manager.”
Hewitt said Southgate’s response to her reassurances were true to form.
She added: “Gareth’s reaction, as in everything to that kind of conversation, is always ‘it’s my accountability, and there’s always something to learn’.
England’s Hungary horror show in stats
- England lost a home match by four or more goals for the first time since March 1928, when they lost 5-1 to Scotland.
- Hungary became the first team to score four goals in an away match against England since the Hungarians themselves won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953.
- England’s first defeat by four or more goals since May 1964, when they lost 5-1 to Brazil in a friendly.
- Only the second time England lost by four or more goals without scoring, along with a 5-0 defeat to Yugoslavia in May 1958, and the first time ever on home soil.
- England have gone four consecutive matches without a win for the first time since a run of five in 2014.
- England have scored just one goal over a period of four games for the first time since a run between October 2006 and March 2007.
“That’s why it’s refreshing working with somebody like that because that openness to learn is quite remarkable and quite unusual in any sphere.”
England have just two matches remaining – Nations League games against Italy and Germany in September – before kicking off their World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21. England will also face the USA and Wales in Group B.
Southgate is currently presiding over the longest winless run of his tenure, while the four-match period without a victory is the longest England have endured since going five games without success in 2014.
However, the 51-year-old – who was appointed in September 2016 – has credit in the bank after leading England to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 28 years in 2018, while they reached their first Euros final last summer, where they lost on penalties to Italy at Wembley.
Southgate – who coached Middlesbrough and England U21s before taking his current role – also oversaw a third-place finish in the inaugural Nations League finals in Portugal in 2019.
Meanwhile, the FA has revealed it is working on a joint strategy with other national associations to shine a light on human rights abuses in Qatar ahead of the country’s hosting of the World Cup.
However, no decision has yet been made on whether the FA will contribute towards a fund designed to provide aid for bereaved workers’ families and to build a workers’ centre in Qatar.
Southgate to England fans: Stay with us
Speaking after England’s heavy defeat to Hungary, Southgate urged the England fans to “stay with” his team:
“We picked a young team with energy and when the game started to go against them, it started to look that way. That’s my responsibility in the end.
“I said to the players, our four matches is my responsibility. I have to balance looking at new players, rest players. We couldn’t keep flogging out our experienced players.
“It was an important experience for lots of young players in these games. We’ve learned a lot in Germany and Italy games. Hungary are a good side and we knew that. I gave them too much to do tonight.
“I understand the reaction in the stadium, what I would say is that in these sets of fixtures, these players have been unbelievable for the country. They have to stay with them.
“Tonight was the sort of night that my predecessors have had. It’s important to stand. I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt.”
‘Southgate has the FA’s total support’
Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Debbie Hewitt was today speaking to the media. We got a chance to spend a little bit of time with her virtually and ask questions as well. We could ask whatever we wanted to ask and obviously there were quite a few questions about Southgate and his future, and the message from the chairwoman of the FA was loud and clear.
“She supports Southgate 100 per cent. He has her total backing and the backing of everyone at the Football Association.
“Obviously, the background to this is we all know what a great job Southgate has done getting England to the semi-finals of the World Cup, getting England to the final of the Euros, but in the past few weeks, performances haven’t been great. There was that terrible defeat at home to Hungary.
Debbie Hewitt said she’d spoken to Southgate since the defeat to Hungary and she said during the conversation she had with him she was very impressed by the fact he still wanted to learn more. He still wanted to develop. That is the kind of person he is.
“But, as far as the FA and Debbie Hewitt are concerned Southgate is still 100 per cent the right man to be leading England, and she went into quite a lot of detail about what an impressive person he is to work with.
“And also, she spoke about all the work he does off the pitch as well. Being the England manager is not just about winning games and producing a team that plays well and that the nation is proud of. You also have to be an ambassador for the FA, you have to be an ambassador for English football as well, and that is something Gareth Southgate does exceptionally well.
“I don’t think Southgate needs to hear that the FA are 100 per cent behind him because he already knows that, but Hewitt was asked about it and she was very up front about the fact that he has her and the FA’s total support.”
‘Southgate does it better than most’
Sky Sports football journalist Adam Bate after England’s heavy defeat to Hungary earlier this month:
“I am not at all convinced by the idea that Gareth Southgate is wasting a golden generation. Man for man, the Euro 2004 team, for example, was superior. That group never made it as far as this one has – twice. That is testament to the culture that Southgate has created.
“However, like most coaches, he has weaknesses. The parallels between the 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia and the Euro 2020 final against Italy are obvious. They lend credence to the notion that his in-game management in big moments must improve.
“It is human nature to take things for granted while longing for what is lacking. When falling just short, the urge to opt for a master tactician is strong. The problem is that navigating modern international management is complicated. Southgate does it better than most.
“Of course, these Nations League results put him under great scrutiny. The need to manage minutes coupled with an appetite to evolve the team was exposed in extraordinary fashion by Hungary. Navigating the noise will be the next test of his management.”
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