At 11am on Monday, the Gareth Southgate England era began with the new permanent manager showing his players video footage of how he had missed a penalty in the European Championships semi- final against Germany, 19 years ago – the setback which came to define him as a player.
Southgate had hoped as recently as last Thursday that the squad’s captain, Wayne Rooney, would join him at St George’s Park at Burton-on-Trent, for a gathering with the new squad in which much store had been set. The Manchester United player was not present - owing to his need for rehabilitation work on a knee injury which prevented him training last week, it was said.
So Southgate took his own path, underlining the importance of psychological preparation will play by confronting his players with images of defeat and disappointment, as well as success. Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy revealed that footage of last summer’s defeat to Iceland had also featured in the compilation of footage that Southgate had asked his video team to put together.
The new manager was now cowed by the idea of discussing England winning the World Cup – a target former chairman Greg Dyke set for 2022 – and ultimately becoming the No 1 team in the world. “The ultimate goal is to become world champions and you look at the world ranking (14th) and you want to try to improve, step by step,” said Sunderland’s 34-year-old Jermain Defoe.
Southgate’s message about ultimately being the world’s best side struck Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. “We want to be the best in the world. If you want to win tournaments you've got to become that sort of team,” he said.
Those who have been close to Southgate in the England under-21 set-up expect him to consistently want players to get the ball down and play, attacking at pace. “He wants us to express ourselves. That's a positive thing,” said Ward-Prowse.