When Gareth Southgate was named interim manager of the England team in 2016, it’s fair to say even the most optimistic of supporters would never have imagined what was to come.
Southgate was eventually given the job on a permanent basis and has transformed their fortunes in recent years, leading the Three Lions to the semi-finals of Russia 2018 and the Wembley final of Euro 2020.
We’ve taken a look back at the England Xl from his first game in charge, a 2-0 win over Malta, to see how they’ve all fared since.
GK: Joe Hart
Despite struggling at Euro 2016, Hart remained as England’s No.1 before eventually being usurped by Jordan Pickford in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup. The 35-year-old’s last international cap came back in 2017.
At club level, the goalkeeper ended a 12-year association with Manchester City and joined Burnley on a permanent deal in 2018.
He made 24 appearances in all competitions for the Clarets and would laterplay back up to Hugo Lloris at Tottenham before joining Celtic last summer. Hart has since helped the Bhoys regain the Scottish title, but still proved Pep Guardiola’s point about not being able to play out from the back.
Oh dear, Joe Hart…
The pass from the Celtic captain is intercepted by Szoboszlai and tucked away by André Silva
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 5, 2022
RB: Kyle Walker
One of just three players in this starting line-up who made the Euro 2020 squad, Walker has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
Since joining Manchester City from Tottenham in 2017, the 31-year-old has won four Premier League titles, four League Cups and an FA Cup.
He’s also fought off competition from Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold to remain Southgate’s first-choice right-back, although faces a race to be fully fit for the group stages.
CB: Gary Cahill
After winning his second Premier League title with Chelsea in 2016-17, Cahill was named in the PFA Team of the Year and replaced John Terry as club captain.
The centre-back then decided to step aside from the national team in 2018, telling Southgate that he did not want to be considered for selection unless there was an injury crisis.
After seven-and-a-half seasons at Stamford Bridge, he was released by the Blues in 2019. Since then he played for Crystal Palace and helped Bournemouth achieve promotion last term, but was released at the end of the campaign.
Cahill retired in November 2022 after a glittering career.
CB: John Stones
Stones recovered from a difficult debut season at Manchester City and helped them win the Premier League with 100 points in 2017-18.
He then came under huge scrutiny after a calamitous mistake in England’s UEFA Nations League game against Holland in 2019 and also found himself out of the City team.
The centre-back enjoyed another renaissance in 2020-21, making 35 appearances in all competitions as City won the Premier League and the League Cup, featuring prominently as they retained the title last summer.
His partnership with Manchester rival Harry Maguire at Euro 2020 was also one of the key reasons England made it all the way to the final.
READ: With one celebration, Stones and Maguire underlined Southgate’s legacy
LB: Ryan Bertrand (Danny Rose, ’19)
Having forged a reputation as a perfectly reliable left-back at Southampton, Bertrand was a notable omission from England’s 2018 World Cup squad.
“I played wing-back in a five at the end of the season, which is how England play,” Bertrand told the Daily Mail in 2018. “I also played in a central three for Southampton with Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte, and we went on Southampton’s record clean sheet run, six on the bounce.
“I played left midfield in a Champions League final for Chelsea. It is perhaps an oversight in the manager’s analysis and I find that hard to take.”
He’s been unable to work his way back into the England team. Last summer he joined Leicester City on a free transfer following the expiration of his Southampton contract, but he’s barely featured for the Foxes.
Rose struggled with injuries and had a sour end to his Tottenham career before joining Watford on a free transfer in 2021. He’s currently a free agent after terminating his contract at Vicarage Road last month.
DM: Jordan Henderson
While Henderson was still a much-maligned figure with both Liverpool and England in 2016, he has since silenced his doubters once and for all.
The midfielder became a Champions League-winning captain in 2019 before leading the Reds to their first league title in 30 years.
He fell behind Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the pecking order for England at Euro 2020 but did score his first international goal after coming off the bench against Ukraine in the quarter-final and was a shoo-in for the plane to Qatar.
READ: Jordan Henderson’s backheel shows England are now in p*ss-taking mode
CM: Dele Alli
Once regarded as English football’s most exciting talent, Alli won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
But his career at Tottenham stagnated and he hasn’t played for England since June 2019.
“The only person I blame is myself,” Alli told Goal in July 2021. “I should be performing at a level where it is difficult to not put me in the team or not play me. I don’t blame anyone but myself.
“Working with Mourinho was a great experience and one I learned a lot from.”
But he couldn’t regain his place under Nuno Espirito Santo or Antonio Conte, and after failing to make an impact at Everton he’s now turning out for Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super Lig. Few could have predicted such a fall from grace six years ago.
CM: Wayne Rooney
Having played alongside Southgate at international level, Rooney was in the twilight of his career when the former was appointed England manager.
England’s all-time top scorer announced his retirement from internationals in August 2017, only to make a one-off return to the national side a year later.
After seeing out his playing career at Derby County, Rooney was appointed manager of the Rams in January 2021. He couldn’t quite stop the beleaguered side from suffering relegation to League One, despite making a good go of it, and is now in charge of former club DC United.
Rooney also pops up as a pundit, talking sense while looking unerringly like Captain Birdseye.
READ: Yearning for the Wayne Rooney that we all fell in love with at Euro 2004
FWR: Theo Walcott (Marcus Rashford, ’68)
Despite impressing for Arsenal in 2016-17, Walcott received a phone call on his 28th birthday to inform him that he was being dropped from the England squad.
“I’ve got to say he wasn’t chuffed to bits to get the call,” Southgate said in March 2017. “And I understand that. Did he argue his case? Yes. Quite rightly, he said: ‘I’m one of the leading goalscorers in the league.’
“I don’t mind being challenged on that. I totally respect that. I don’t expect him to be happy but I’ve got to make decisions and I think it was the right thing to call him to talk that through – even if the timing wasn’t great.”
The winger hasn’t played for England since and is now back at boyhood club Southampton after a not particularly memorable stint at Everton. He seems to be seeing out his final years on the fringes with Saints.
Rashford developed into one of the best forwards in the Premier League with Manchester United and has 46 international caps to his name at the time of writing, though his form seriously suffered amid United’s struggles in 2021-22.
He’s since rekindled his old spark under Erik ten Hag and earnt a recall to the England squad in time for the World Cup.
He’s also a lovely, lovely man.
ST: Daniel Sturridge (Jamie Vardy, ’73)
Sturridge’s final few years at Liverpool were detailed by a series of injury problems, and he joined Trabzonspor on a free transfer in 2019.
Now 33, the striker is without a club since and has done little of note in recent years, with a short and unsuccessful stint with Australian A-League side Perth Glory his last involvement in the game.
Vardy announced his retirement from international football in August 2018 and decided to focus on his club career with Leicester City. He won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2019-20 before helping the Foxes lift the FA Cup in 2021.
FWL: Jesse Lingard
Lingard made his senior England debut against Malta and soon became a key player for Southgate, starting at the 2018 World Cup.
The 28-year-old then struggled for form at Manchester United and has since opened up about his mental health issues, revealing that he nearly took a break from football.
“I was going into games happy sitting on the bench and that’s not me,” Lingard told the Presenting YouTube channel in 2021. “I was telling my brother the other day: ‘Remember when I was happy sitting on the bench and all this?’
“I didn’t want to play because my mind wasn’t there, I wasn’t focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up; trying to play football, you can’t do it.”
Despite rediscovering his best form during a loan spell at West Ham in the second half of 2020-21, he failed to make the cut when Southgate named his final 26-man squad for Euro 2020.
He spent last season on the periphery back at Manchester United and is now one of newly-promoted Nottingham Forest’s 22(!) summer signings.
TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player capped by Gareth Southgate for England?
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