Is England’s Gareth Southgate a Good Manager? His CV says no

It was a grimly familiar performance by Gareth Southgate’s England in the 1-0 defeat to Hungary.

Players exhausted after a relentless Premier
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League season was a struggle to create a cohesive team and they were out-battled by and out-thought a side that should, on paper be, be routing.

Gareth Southgate’s rhetoric when he took over media duties after the defeat sounded familiar to English fans.

He said that it had been a long season, and that heat was a factor. We tried to get the team back on track earlier than usual. I must balance the new information with the familiarity of the regular team. I need to examine whether that is what I did.

“I don’t want to be harsh on them. These are games that we must learn from. We want to win more matches and they are very disappointed. We must win if we are to reach the top of football.

England is well-versed in the dangers of losing in hot conditions and slow defeats. The nation has suffered from the World Cup exits in 2018 and 2002, as well as the defeat in the final of the Euro 2020 last summer. It often loses to teams that keep the ball better.

Gareth Southgate’s progress in major tournaments is evident. However, while other coaches like Bobby Robson and Terry Venables were praised for their great failures, the manager is still being criticised regardless of his successes.

The squad is of high quality. It is widely believed that the former Aston Villa captain has a much better team of players than his predecessors. Southgate’s ability to get the best out of his players is where opinions diverge.

Although the former Middlesborough manager may have a better record than almost every England coach, when the team loses, calls for him to be fired are not far.

The perception that England is wasting its talent is not limited to England. Media around the globe have been puzzled by the coaching style and the selections made.

His decision not to play the then-Bourissa Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at Euro 2020 was still utterly confusing. Italian commentators were also shocked at his unwillingness to trust the a-aria-label=”talent-available” class=”color-link” data-ga-track=”ExternalLink:https://theathletic.com/2693252/2021/07/07/euro-2020-what-does-the-rest-of-europe-think-of-england/” href=”https://theathletic.com/2693252/2021/07/07/euro-2020-what-does-the-rest-of-europe-think-of-england/” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank” title=”https://theathletic.com/2693252/2021/07/07/euro-2020-what-does-the-rest-of-europe-think-of-england/”>talent available.

Southgate’s CV is the main reason Southgate remains in doubt despite being in the Semi-Finals and Final of both the previous two tournaments.

One of the worst qualifications ever to be an England coach

The England job used to be the crowning jewel of a manager’s career.

Alf Ramsey, who took Ipswich Town up from the Second Division and made them champions of England, has been the national side’s manager. He was one of the best managers in the country, and he happily left his job at the top of the club games to take the position.

Don Revie left Leeds United at its peak to take the job. Brian Clough, his great rival, offered himself to the position shortly before leading Nottingham Forest into two European Cups.

Even though English managers at the top of the hierarchy declined in numbers in the 2000s, it was still possible to seize Scudetto-winning Swede Sven Goran Eriksson, a Lazio resident, even in the early 2000s.

The job of England manager has become less desirable due to decades of underachievement and the club game achieving a level of prestige far beyond international soccer.

Despite this lower standard, Southgate’s qualifications are most likely the worst ever.

After three years at Middlesborough, the club finished 12th and 13th respectively before being relegated in 2009.

His second stint as England Under-21 coach saw his qualification for the 2015 European Championships, where he finished last in the group.

His rise to the top job was accidental. The previous incumbent Sam Allardyce was caught in a newspaper sting and had to leave.

Southgate took over the responsibility, and with the confidence of the national team at an all time low after the humiliating defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, he was given the position with little fanfare.

Ex-Middlesborough manager managed to shock the world by leading England to its first World Cup Semifinal in almost three decades. Success in the Euros has made it difficult for people to mention his patchy resume.

Southgate’s biggest fans will admit, however, that his experience in big-game management pales in comparison with international managers.

His 259 games with England have been played with the full or under-21 team.

He has three times the experience of Roberto Mancini on the Euro 2020 touchline, who has coached at Champions League clubs for many years and won league titles both in England and Italy.

It was at these moments that Southgate’s ignorance really showed.

Does experience matter?

England is not the only country that struggles to attract top-performing managers.

Only Germany, with Hansi Flick’s appointment, who just led Bayern Munich to a Champions League title can claim to have a coach that came directly from club soccer.

The coaches of other prestigious national teams are often either retiring after a long and successful career, or they are going through a difficult period.

Roberto Mancini from Italy might have a large collection of medals, but he was only offered the job after having failed spells at Inter Milan and Zenit St Petersburg.

Spain coach Luis Enrique, a Champions League-winning Barcelona manager, left when the side was struggling. His previous stints at Roma and Celta Vigo weren’t impressive.

Even Didier Deschamps, the World Cup winner, has a modest managerial club career. He won a Ligue 1 title with Marseille and a Champions League Final against Monaco over two decades.

The fact that these coaches have better records and more experience than Southgate is undeniable. They have also coached at the highest levels of club soccer and have coached at least twice as many games.

Although the tactics of Deschamps and Enrique are questionable, no one would argue that they were still learning their craft.

It is the moment when you are able to make a difference that matters the most.

This was evident in both the Semi-Final against Croatia as well as the Final versus Italy during the summer 2021. Southgate was unable to react when his opponent took control of the game using a tactical tweak.

Mancini introduced Domenico Berardi to Ciro Immobile. He changed the shape of Italy and England couldn’t match it.

Southgate’s team lost the lead and took the initiative in the match, as they did against Croatia three years ago.

Although both teams lost on penalties, it was clear that Mancini felt the need to have a coach with comparable experience.

International management is about taking action in a few high-pressure situations. It is difficult to overlook Southgate’s lack thereof.

An examination of the history books reveals that not all World Cup winners were club-level coaches, but they had more experience than Southgate.

Franz Beckenbauer, who led Germany to glory 1990, is the only coach with a similar managerial record as Southgate.

The main difference between him, and the man in England’s dugout is that he had done it as an athlete.

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