Dave Kidd: Southgate insists he’s still the right man for England but fans are growing bored of him and he’s tiring of the job

It was odd that Gareth Southgate even felt the need to say it.

But after a miserable defeat in Italy that confirmed his side’s relegation to the Nations League, the England boss voluntarily expressed his opinion that he is the right man to lead the Three Lions to the World Cup in Qatar.

Gareth Southgate is adamant he remains the right man to lead England

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Gareth Southgate is adamant he remains the right man to lead EnglandPhoto credit: Getty
The Three Lions boss was booed by fans after the dismal defeat in Italy

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The Three Lions boss was booed by fans after the dismal defeat in ItalyPhoto credit: Rex

No one had even hinted that Southgate could retire or be sacked with less than two months to go before the World Cup.

Even the thousands of English fans who booed him in Milan and slapped him after a 4-0 loss to Hungary at Molineux in June aren’t seriously calling for a change in leadership so close to the tournament – especially when there’s no obvious English successor.

But Southgate said: “I think I’m the right person to lead the team into the tournament.

“I think it’s undoubtedly more stable that way.”

It now feels like Southgate is at the beginning of the end of his six-year reign. He will travel to Frankfurt in two weeks to take part in the Euro 2024 qualifying draw.

But despite his £6million annual deal running up to that tournament in Germany, it’s hard to imagine him remaining in charge when that qualifying campaign gets underway in March.

After England went five games without a win – just one goal from open play – Southgate sounded like a man in denial.

His claim that his team’s performance in Friday’s 1-0 defeat was “a step in the right direction” was an insult to the intelligence of everyone watching – particularly the 4,300 paying players up at the Gods at San Siro.

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Southgate has made numerous mentions of how previous England managers have been widely criticized by fans and the media. But the truth is, it didn’t get nearly as much stick as most of its predecessors.

He is England’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, having guided the side to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and last year’s Euro final.

And despite long-standing criticism of his overcautious approach, it has only been since the debacle against Hungary that fans have really turned against him – which was England’s heaviest home defeat in almost a century.

Considering Bobby Robson was on the receiving end of “In the Name of God, Go!” Headlines that Graham Taylor was sent to the vegetable patch and caricatured as a turnip and that Kevin Keegan quit in a Wembley toilet, Southgate didn’t have it so bad.

But it seems the nation has bored him and Southgate may be growing weary of his work.

The 52-year-old hasn’t managed a club for 13 years and is dying to do so.

Walter Winterbottom is the only England manager to have led the side to four major tournament finals and this will be Southgate’s third. That job, which was never quite the “impossible job,” has an expiration date, and the current boss is reaching his.

Not that the FA have an obvious successor to call on now that Graham Potter has linked up with Chelsea.

Southgate became a national treasure and a style icon in Russia four years ago, a status he’s always embarrassed.

And he insists that neither personal popularity nor antipathy bothers him.

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Southgate said: “I’ve seen every other English manager have it (unpopularity). So I’ve never been overwhelmed by praise. I know how the game is and it spins so fast and you are judged on results.

“No one will enjoy being booed by fans but I get the job.

“Football management, when you have a difficult result streak, it will always be the manager who takes care of it. I have to keep doing it.”

Southgate is a results-oriented manager who no longer gets results.

His side have always relied too heavily on goals from Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling while set pieces have sapped their strength. But hints that the manager is wasting a new “golden generation” are far from the mark.

England lack talent in central defence, central midfield and left-back.

The manager rightly believes England aren’t good enough to succeed at gung-ho football and is returning to a 3-4-3 formation that has repeatedly faced accusations of being overcautious.

However, we can only hope his delusional rhetoric about promising performances is not repeated in the dressing room, where some home truths need to be told if England are to avoid an early elimination in Qatar.

Southgate claimed: “I don’t think the performance against Italy was far off.

“I know there will be ridicule because we’ve had a number of defeats, but the players know the performance was basically good.

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“Ultimately, I’m judged by the tournament and how we do in the tournaments.

“Would we have wished for a different series of results? Without doubt. We’d like to score goals, we’d like to win, but that’s a different test and we have to show we’re resilient enough to handle it.”

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6296296/gareth-southgate-england-manager-world-cup/ Dave Kidd: Southgate insists he’s still the right man for England but fans are growing bored of him and he’s tiring of the job

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