The next England manager does not have to be English but “probably has to be someone who has worked over here”, the Football Association’s technical director John McDermott has said.
In a wide-ranging interview McDermott, who will lead the search for Gareth Southgate’s eventual successor, said there was a “genuine feeling” that England should have won the last World Cup and can win the European Championship in 2024.
Southgate’s current contract expires at the end of that year and McDermott said the manager will “subliminally” play a part in who succeeds him as the pair talk all the time about coaches.
McDermott did not rule out Southgate staying beyond the end of his present deal, something the manager himself has already raised, and said that was partly why the 52-year-old’s contract runs six months after the Euros in Germany.
But McDermott, who succeeded Les Reed in 2021, was asked specifically whether the next England manager must be English.
“I think we need to get the best person for the job to help the English players that are there,” McDermott said. “All my life I have always thought: what is in the best interests of the players? And if he’s English, fantastic.
“I think realistically they would have to understand English players and English football and the English psyche and probably have worked over here and be immersed in the culture. But I would want to make sure it’s the most inspiring and best person to lead our players.”
That person will, also, as Southgate has proven so astutely, have to be able to deal with political and social issues – have the “bandwidth” to do so – as well as sporting ones.
“I think that ability to be immersed in the English game and what it means to answer these questions – I think a lot of coaches in the club game are having to deal with this too: what it means to be the mouthpiece for their club,” McDermott said.
‘Southgate, thankfully, is in a really good place’
Southgate considered quitting after the World Cup, with England losing to France in the quarter-finals, because he feared the criticism he faced last year and going into the tournament might affect the players. However, as revealed by Telegraph Sport, he decided to stay.
Asked whether the FA would consider extending Southgate’s contract further, McDermott said: “I think he has made a commitment at the end of the World Cup, he is a 100 per cent authentic in wanting to do the right thing for the team. I have no doubt about that,” McDermott said.
“At the moment it’s not a contract issue. I think Gareth is very sensible and very much trying to feel, not just from our point of view, but is he the right [person], is this the right thing for him? But, at the moment and the rebound after France game [with wins against Italy and Ukraine in the Euro qualifiers], thankfully I think he’s in a really good place.”
As for England’s World Cup exit, McDermott claimed: “I think there is, based on evidence, a genuine feeling that [tournament] should have been ours, that could have been ours. I don’t think that’s hubris or an arrogance based without substance, I do think it’s an authentic belief.”
‘Gareth is very introspective. He’s very, very thoughtful’
It has added to the sense that England can win the Euros with the FA having deliberately secured Southgate on a contract that runs until the end of that year to give them – and Southgate – that breathing space.
“That was the thought behind it. Gareth is very introspective and after Euros he needs time to digest. He’s very, very thoughtful and I’m very respectful of that,” McDermott said while adding that he was “delighted” Southgate decided to stay on after Qatar.
“We are now secure and have got off to a brilliant start and looking forward now to hopefully qualify for Germany.”
England have a busy schedule of tournaments this summer overseen by McDermott with the Under-17 European Championship in Hungary starting next week, the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina and the Under-21s European Championship in Georgia and Romania as well as qualifiers for the senior team.
‘Succession planning’ in place for life after Southgate
McDermott is close to Southgate and the two discuss what might happen next. “I’m not saying that would be done overtly but I think subliminally that goes on naturally anyway,” he said.
“Gareth and I speak every day and we’re both blessed with going to clubs, going to Qatar together [for a World Cup coaches debrief], we’re constantly speaking about players and constantly speaking about coaches who impresses us.
“[It’s] not necessarily grooming the next England coach or grooming the next Under-21 coach but part of our job is, we’re at Premier League clubs all the time, at games and at training grounds. Not necessarily training people to become the next England manager, but just trying to help them and help them with our experience.”
McDermott said there is “succession planning” in place and added that the next manager did not have to come through the FA system – as Southgate has done. “It’s an ambition but I wouldn’t want to necessarily limit us to doing that,” he said.
“We have a fantastic example in the way it has worked with Gareth and him being allied with (assistant) Steve [Holland] as well so is it a possibility? Is it a pathway? I think yes but there are multiple pathways to becoming the head England coach or the head German coach.”