Five things… Southgate can do to prove he’s badass

Kevin Darling says allegations that Gareth Southgate is 'too soft' is troubling for English football, so here are 5 ways for the England manager to prove he's a badass


1 Channel Baroness Thatcher

“Am I tough in us… err… tough enough? Hell yes I’m tough enough.” *unconvincing steely glare*

There is an unmistakable touch of the Ed Milibands about Gareth Southgate’s bid to become the full-time England manager.

While his heart is probably in the right place, and he might even be quite competent, he just can’t carry off the ‘Strong, Powerful Leader’ look without coming across as faintly ridiculous.

In his first press conference as interim coach, Southgate admitted that being “too nice” is “an accusation that has been thrown at me for about 40 years”. Since he was six years old, in other words. It conjures an image of a young lad who spent his time chasing butterflies and stroking cats while his peers were off climbing trees and wrestling.

If Southgate is to endure in this new role beyond his four allotted games, he needs to completely reinvent himself. Less wishy-washy and pleasant; more firm, ruthless, evil. He needs to be less Ed Miliand; more Maggie Thatcher.


2 Drop Wayne Rooney

England’s record goalscorer hasn’t taken long to kick Big Sam up the bum on his way out the door, lambasting Southgate’s predecessor for telling the media the captain “played where he wanted” against Slovakia. Rooney even revealed that Allardyce apologised to him on the plane home, adding ominously, “He knew he made a mistake.” And look at Sam now… That’s what happens when you mess with the Wazmeister.

Southgate has suggested there is “no reason to change” who England’s skipper is, but many disagree - and it would show some impressive cojones if the new boss jettisoned his most famous player. Something Roy Hodgson and Allardyce couldn’t bring themselves to do because they were, essentially, too scared.

3 Trash-talk Malta

It will be difficult to make Southgate’s first assignment against the world’s 176th-ranked team exciting, but he could at least try. One easy way to quickly establish his tough-guy credentials would be to dish out some completely disproportionate verbal bullying against the opposition. Declaring that he expects the Three Lions to “tonk” the Maltese “10-0” because they are “rubbish” would at least rouse the fans from their apathy.

This tactic would be most effective if England actually carry out Southgate’s threat and complete a cold-blooded 10-0 victory, with Southgate wildly celebrating each goal by throwing Sammy Lee to the ground like The Undertaker. Then he could strut onto the pitch at the end cackling cruelly into the face of each defeated Maltese part-timer.

4 Speak less good

No matter how mean Southgate acts, one feels that he will never be considered truly hard while he continues to pronounce his consonants like some kind of cricketer. In the world of football, where anyone with a GCSE is labelled “posh”, Southgate’s advanced grasp of the Queen’s English is unacceptable. It’s up to Southgate which regional accent he decides to employ. The cockney route - dropping a few Ts, addressing people as “Guv” and changing his name from Gareth to Gary - would be the obvious choice. But there’s nothing to stop him going full-on Scouse or Glaswegian if he completely throws himself into it. As long it’s not Dutch like Steve McClaren then it should be an improvement.

5 Naked headbutt

This audacious technique - famously employed by Tony Pulis against James Beattie in the showers at Stoke City in 2009 - is the ultimate show of dressing room authority. It’s an act that demonstrates self-confidence, creativity and decisiveness - all crucial attributes for an England manager. It wouldn’t matter who Southgate headbutts, or where. It wouldn’t need to be in the shower, or even one of his own players. It could be a stranger in the supermarket for all we care. The important thing is that there is a headbutt, and that Southgate is naked while delivering it. This will prove the doubters wrong. This will earn him respect. It is very much a last throw of the dice, mind.

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