Gareth Southgate: English football must accept it is no longer a major force

simon johnson
Evening Standard
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Gareth Southgate believes English football needs to wake up to reality and accept it is no longer a major force in the world game.

Southgate was handed a four-year contract when he was appointed as England coach on a permanent basis in November.

The former international defender admits he faces a tough task to turnaround a national side that hasn't won a knock-out game at a major tournament since 2006.

With Premier League clubs also struggling in the Champions League - only five teams have reached the Quarter Finals since 2012 - Southgate believes patience is in order.

He said: "One of the things I want to talk to the players about is the fact that we always talk about what we’d like to achieve but don’t look at the reality of where we are.

"Whatever we think we are as a nation, we’ve not been delivering. We seem to have won medals in almost every other sport and ours is the missing piece.

"That drives me on as much as anything; the need to start recognising where we are and how we then bridge the gap.

"Sometimes we get wrapped up in the profile of our League, as we are seeing at the moment. Eight or 10 years ago we were always involved in Champions League semi-finals and finals and that isn’t the case anymore.

"I think there’s a harsh lens needed on some of the things we are doing. We need to look at who the top teams are and how we get to their level."

Southgate has revealed that it really hit home how low England have sunk when he attended the Brazil World Cup in 2014, where they were knocked out after just two matches.

"I remember going to the World Cup in Brazil, scouting ,and they have those montages before the game of highlights of previous tournaments and it suddenly struck me - we're not on them, none of our players are on them," he said.

"We think we're whatever, but I'm looking at it and there's all the Brazilians, the Spaniards, the French... and we're not there.

"And I'm almost sinking into my seat because you walk in there thinking you're part of England, which I'm massively proud to be, but actually, on the world stage, we're not there at the moment and we've got to turn up.

"Yes (I plan to talk to the players about this). I don't know how they see it and I don't know how everybody else sees it, but I know the expectation we have moving forward.

"And actually, I think part of trying to affect that is to start saying 'Listen, these are the realities of where we are'.

"So there's a challenge for English coaches and for English players. Getting the players to embrace that challenge is the task I've got to take."

But Southgate, who was in charge of the Under-21s side that won the Toulon Tournament last year, is not all doom and gloom.

"I think we've got some really exciting potential," he insisted.

"When I speak to some of the foreign managers at the top English clubs, they like a lot of the young English players. They speak highly of the potential of a lot of the players coming through.

"But a lot of them are young and they don't have these big-game experiences yet and we've got to try to guide them on that path and try to get results at the same time and take on all the challenges that this brings.

"But if it was an easy job, then it wouldn't be such a unique number of people that have done it. That's what I want to be involved in.

"I want to be involved in something that matters, that people care about. As an Englishman I'm hugely proud to lead my country in any sort of role.

"To lead the national football team is something i'm incredibly proud of, but I'm not sitting there every morning over breakfast thinking how brilliant it is. I'm thinking how can we get better."

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