Don’t expect an exciting England at the World Cup… Hungary’s hammering will only make Southgate more cautious

GARETH SOUTHGATE admitted it was the most acrimonious night of his six-year reign in England.

But if you expected Tuesday’s 4-0 humiliation against Hungary to change him, then think again.

Gareth Southgate sparked anger from some England fans when he replaced winger Bukayo Saka with centre-back Harry Maguire in the 3-0 deficit against Hungary

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Gareth Southgate sparked anger from some England fans when he replaced winger Bukayo Saka with centre-back Harry Maguire in the 3-0 deficit against HungaryPhoto credit: Getty
Skipper Harry Kane and his England team-mates struggled to create chances and failed to score in open play in this summer's Nations League

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Skipper Harry Kane and his England team-mates struggled to create chances and failed to score in open play in this summer’s Nations LeaguePhoto credit: Getty

Southgate may have been stung by criticism for his alleged caution and negativity – but he firmly believes a more gung-ho approach in the second half at Molineux meant his side suffered their biggest home win in almost a century Has.

The England manager’s critics will hate that line of reasoning, but the tenacious Southgate is convinced his safety-focused approach is the only way for the Three Lions to succeed at the World Cup in Qatar.

A man who once turned the nation on at two major tournaments – in the words of his Atomic Kitten anthem – has no interest in sexy football.

Southgate believes there has been a “strange” agenda against him during a terrible string of four Nations League games in which England have failed to win or even score from open play.

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He said: “I found the ten days odd in terms of narrative as I also found our last Nations League campaign odd.

“I didn’t agree with everything that was suggested. Something about the desire to see an open game… We saw against Hungary that you have to have the balance of a team.

“With a club, maybe when you’re at the top and you’ve worked with the players for a long time, you can play a more expensive game – but even the top teams are damn good defensively, they. re good with the transition, the balance of everything is right.

“The idea that we can just play a lot of offensive players and rely on talent to win games… isn’t what it is.

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“And that reminded me in the second half, ‘OK, this is a gamble.’

“You gamble to try and win the game because you think that’s important. But what happened can happen.

“We have raised optimism and expectations. That’s understandable because people assume there will be progress.

“But it doesn’t always work that way. The competition in top international football is unbelievably fierce.”

The crucial result of Southgate’s reign, a 2-0 win over Germany at last year’s European Championships, was achieved with a cautious approach.

And England’s best performance since that tournament – a 5-0 win over an Albanian side good enough to beat Hungary twice in World Cup qualifiers – came with five defenders and two defensive midfielders in the starting line-up.

But as the Molineux crowd turned on Southgate with boos and screams of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing!’ it felt as if we were bracing ourselves for one of those devastating investigations in England we’ve all been all too familiar with in years past.

But this wasn’t a repeat of Roy Hodgson’s infamous “I don’t know what I’m doing here” press conference after the 2016 defeat by Iceland.

Neither did Steve McClaren’s failure after Wally with the Brolly night against Croatia in 2007.

Gareth Southgate says he will use the mangle from the pitch after the mangle on it as

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Gareth Southgate says he will use the mangle from the pitch after the mangle on it as “fuel” to prove the doubters wrongCredit: PA

Southgate, England’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, handled the flak with intelligence and grace.

He suggested his patriotic pride makes the current criticism more stinging than it would have been for enlisting foreign managers Fabio Capello and Sven-Göran Eriksson.

He said: “Of course it is. Because I’m a proud Englishman.

“I took the job to try to make English football better.

“And I’m very proud to be able to keep up with the achievements of some of my predecessors, who I really appreciate – and to be better than them.

“Of course it’s painful, you can’t park it, it lives with you. But football management does.

“The difficult thing about international management is that you don’t get a game on Saturday to get it right.

“Now I and my employees have to live with it for the next few months. The players need to clear their heads, they come back with fresh minds and are excited about a World Cup.”

I really understand what went wrong. And what would have to be right so that nights like this don’t happen again?

Gareth Southgate

Southgate will hold a full debrief with his staff ahead of a family holiday next month.

But he insists his confidence has not been shaken by England’s shock blows – and will use the abuse he has suffered as motivation.

Southgate, 51, said: “I’ll use it as fuel. Because when you are disappointed and you read negativity, you want to fight and prove people wrong.

“But that’s what I’ve done my whole life so there’s no added incentive because of a night like Tuesday. I know nights like this can happen.

“You are not pleasant. I’ve seen it in others. But they are the realities of football.

“If I were a younger manager who hadn’t had those experiences, I might be like, ‘What went wrong? How did this happen?’

“But we couldn’t keep flogging the regular players. This would have a negative impact later on.

“We might have gotten away with it, but I think it was a big risk.

“Now you’re like, ‘God, I wish we had.’ But actually it would have been selfish to try to take the pressure off me instead of trying to get England to go to a World Cup.

“I really understand what went wrong. And what would have to be right so that nights like this don’t happen again?

“I’ve been in football for 35 years. I know, how it works. And I know how quickly opinions change.

“But you’re not wearing it [criticism] with you like a scar

“It toughens you up. There is determination and I’ve had a lot of those experiences as a player and as a coach.

“It’s just not realistic to spend six years in charge of England without something like that happening.”

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5571133/england-siuthgate-cautious-world-cup-says-kidd/ Don’t expect an exciting England at the World Cup… Hungary’s hammering will only make Southgate more cautious

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