On Wednesday, the FA confirmed the news that had been inevitable for weeks; Gareth Southgate has been named the new permanent England manager on a four year contract. The 46 year old becomes the third Three Lions boss of 2016, which is a statement that is embarrassing in itself. But in my opinion, the situation is unlikely to get much better with Southgate at the helm, with the appointment of the former centre-back showing a lack of ambition from the spineless FA.
It seems that after the Sam Allardyce saga, the FA were desperate for a quick fix to solve the mess, yet in fact that was the opposite of what they should have been looking for. The national team needs a massive shake-up, so that does not mean appointing from within and giving the job to the man who has been in charge of the Under-21s for the last three years.
Supposedly because of that experience, Southgate is the ‘perfect’ fit for the job as he has been moulded into the England style and formula. But where on earth has the England style and formula got us in the last 10 years? The last five major international tournaments (three Euros and two World Cups) have seen us fail to qualify once and suffer embarrassing early exits on three other occasions. If the FA still think that they need a manager who suits the ‘England style’ then they clearly haven’t being paying attention to our performances in these tournaments.
Southgate doesn’t strike me as a man who will be able to rally the players up and give them a reality check. He’s polite, reserved and speaks very well in press conferences, all of which are admirable qualities, but he’s not going to be a manager who would stimulate you if you’re on the verge of being knocked out of the 2018 World Cup group stages. His squad selections so far have been far from inspiring, picking players based on reputation rather than form as every other England manager has done in the last 10 years.
This is where Allardyce’s actions become so frustrating. Big Sam had all of these qualities, wasn’t prepared to just be another ‘yes man’ and would do the job his way, not the way the FA wanted it. He offered something different. Yet because he became too greedy and too over confident, the national team’s chances in the foreseeable future have suffered as a result. Gareth Southgate didn’t even want the job until about two weeks ago, yet he has found himself with a £2 million per year contract until 2020.
If there was a shortlist for the job, I’m not entirely sure how Southgate found himself on it, other than the fact he would fit the FA mould – which I’ve already discussed is the opposite of what we need. His CV is far from impressive. Following retirement in 2006, he took over at Middlesbrough straight away without the right coaching qualifications and three years later the North East club had been relegated to the Championship. His win percentage at the Riverside Stadium was just 29.8%.
Following four years out of management, he was given the England Under-21 job. He fulfilled the minimum requirement of qualifying for the 2015 European Championship, but the Young Lions crashed out of the tournament at the group stage, finishing bottom of their group. Supporters of Southgate might point towards his success at the Toulon Tournament this summer. Of course this is a trophy in its own right, but when you see that England played the likes of Guinea, Japan and Paraguay and even the strongest teams such as France and Portugal had nowhere near full strength sides, then the silverware loses a little bit of its credibility. The last manager to come into the Three Lions job as young and as inexperienced as Southgate was Steve McClaren, and we all know how that appointment ended up…
Even his four games as caretaker England boss have shown little to get excited about. More was expected in the sluggish 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley, a nation that even Scotland managed to thrash 5-1 away from home, the 0-0 draw in Slovenia was absolutely dire, a 3-0 victory of a Scotland side in a state of despair was flattering to say the least, whilst the 2-2 friendly draw against Spain felt more like a loss after England’s collapse in the final five minutes of the game.
Whilst I admit that there wasn’t a huge amount of other options, there were certainly better options than Southgate out there, but unfortunately it came down to him after the FA’s refusal to consider foreign candidates. Eddie Howe’s lack of experience (ironic considering Southgate’s credentials), Alan Pardew’s collapse at Crystal Palace and Steve Bruce taking the Aston Villa job left Southgate as the only real English option.
Ralf Ragnick’s was the only foreign name realistically suggested, but he is now achieving success at Red Bull Leipzig who are currently three points clear at the top of the German Bundesliga table. Experienced and successful managers such as Laurent Blanc and Guus Hiddink, who I suggested following Roy Hodgson’s departure, are both still without a job but it seems that they weren’t even considered by the FA.
So here we are then. A man with just six years of managerial experience, relegation from the Premier League and a tournament failure on his CV is the new England national team manager. Despite my criticisms of Gareth Southgate, of course I will still support him and the team in their World Cup qualification campaign and beyond, as the appointment has been made and unless some dodgy scandal comes out about him, we’re stuck with him. How far ‘beyond’ the 46 year will go remains to be seen, but I would be incredibly surprised to see him last the four years which his contract covers.
But hey, appointing a former international centre-back with little managerial experience isn’t working out too badly for Reading at the moment…