Southgate's mood after the World Cup quarter-final elimination to France brought him to the brink of quitting, and the abrupt decision to stay naturally created the perception that this would be his last tilt at a trophy. Such questions naturally framed England’s first qualifier back, away to Italy in Naples, but Southgate actively evaded giving such answers.
“Let’s hope we’ve got that opportunity to make that decision," he eventually joked, after it was directly put to him whether this will be the last tournament.
“Well that depends if we win! But... I think you have to be careful as a player not to assume when you’re younger that this might not be your last chance as well. Of course you’re always going to think you’re going to have other opportunities but injury, form, new players coming through in your position, you can never take that for granted. Yes, clearly the older ones know the timescale is quite clear. But everybody else has to be mindful of that as well."
It was then put to Southgate that the general perception is that this is his last tournament, and whether he could afford to think the same way.
"No, I'm just thinking about game to game, preparing the team as well as possible, I've for a while felt I need to enjoy the experience, I think that emits itself to the players when you do that. I'm relishing the challenge. This is a great football city, this is a great place to come and be challenged, and we're looking forward to the game."
Southgate did admit that the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on penalties adds an extra edge to this match.
"Every disappointment is motivation and an opportunity to learn and to grow. Of course it is additional motivation to us. I am not going to deny that. In actual fact tomorrow will be slightly different teams and a different occasion and we have to be ready for the start of this qualifying campaign."