Lawrie: We should all be getting behind Gareth ahead of the World Cup

England manager Gareth Southgate reacts during the UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire.
RESTRICTIONS: Use
England manager Gareth Southgate reacts during the UEFA Nations League match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use

ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate has been under a fair bit of pressure of late, and on one hand I can understand it looking at their results and performances over the last few games.

But I’ve said it before, it’s very different to being a club manager. You don’t see your players day after day, but only when games are popping up.

Sometimes the squad who played for you at the last England game have now got players who aren’t playing for their club teams – with clubs now having bigger squads than they used to.

The club managers are concentrating on their own situations and getting as high up the leagues as possible, but in my day the England manager could be very popular when he was managing his club and not so popular when he goes to the national team.

Then, club managers would prefer their players to stay with them all the time and not away during the breaks. Directors will sometimes be delighted because it would increase the value of that player, if and when they decided to sell him.

The fitness situation is also very important, with the medical side of the national team on hand immediately when players start turning up and they want to make sure he hasn’t kidded his club manager by saying he has no problems in order to get together with their country.

The biggest thing, of course, is when tournaments are coming up – just as we have a World Cup soon – and the fact is Gareth will not be getting his squad together at all until they travel to Qatar.

A name which attracts Saints supporters is of course captain James Ward-Prowse, who I personally know as Mr Set Piece Specialist – although he is much more than that.

While I know international squads are much bigger, and the manager might be wanting to keep some happy by reshuffling, I would have thought Ward-Prowse would always be at least on the bench, if not the pitch.

England in particular have set pieces and there will always be set pieces no matter which game is being played. Anything from just outside the box is where he can help. It surprised and disappointed me that he must now feel worried or that he hasn’t impressed, but let’s hope he makes it higher up the group for the trip to Qatar.

The players will all want to be in the World Cup games and they will probably be reading, the same as us, about how Qatar is completely different to any place the England team will have previously visited.

The cost of things like even a meal is unbelievable, and hotel prices for supporters etcetera. The England staff I’m sure will have visited or talked to other countries who have been there to see what difference they will see at the training camps when they arrive.

I think we should all be getting behind Gareth, with the reminder recently that of the last eight England managers, his win-rate is second-highest – only about two per cent behind Fabio Capello.

It is higher than others such as Glenn Hoddle, Sven Goran-Eriksson, Roy Hodgson and Steve McClaren. We are in a group with Iran, USA and Wales. How would you feel if you were the manager of Wales, Rob Page, who could count the small number of his players in the Premier League?

We, as Saints supporters, will keep an eye on them because of Gareth Bale – who started his career off with Saints and is very popular, but the Welsh manager is desperate for him to turn up 100 per cent fit after he has apparently been struggling in America, where he plays for Los Angeles FC.

Change of kick-off times?

Another interesting thing I saw is that Mansfield Town in the EFL have sought to bring forward their traditional kick-off times in order to help with the cost of living crisis.

The club are looking to play their Saturday 3pm matches instead at 1pm, to avoid the need to use the floodlights at all during the closing stages of the match. I wonder if that could become commonplace in the EFL?

City of Culture bid

Quite a while ago, I was one of a team put together by Southampton City Council – who were trying to get us to win the City of Culture.

It wasn’t successful this time, but hopefully next time it will be. I would suggest, to add to the attractions in our area, The 1865 club in Southampton – where my wife and I attended last week.

Our son, Sean, and a dozen other musicians called the Southampton All-Star Band – a collection of finest heritage musicians with a mixture of old styles – put on a fantastic programme lasting two or three hours.

They got standing ovations, and it was all performed for free. A special shout-out to Martin Perry, who is well-known for a magazine and radio station called AND, who organised the event and joined in playing guitar on stage himself.