The climax of every international tournament usually ends with the same question, especially from England fans. Regardless of who is in charge, many often query their fate and whether they deserve another chance.
For Three Lions supporters, the last three tournaments now portray something of a mixed consensus regarding what his immediate future should look like. Following news that the 52-year-old will stay on as England manager, it has sparked much debate among supporters.
There are those who are very firmly in his camp, suggesting that he has been unlucky over the last three tournaments, doing well to get the team to where he has. On the other side, most of the disagreement was ceded by the fact that England should have beaten the opposition in front of them at the time.
Southgate’s Tournament Story So Far
On two occasions where the Three Lions have been defeated in knockout tournament football, they had taken the lead early before going on to lose against very beatable teams. At the World Cup in 2018, Croatia presented a ripe opportunity for England to progress to their first final since 1966 – this semi-final being their biggest achievement since then.
A sumptuous Kieran Trippier free-kick within the first five minutes made sure that Southgate’s side had one foot firmly in the final before capitulation, eventually losing in extra time.
Two (three) years later, in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, they surged into the final, setting up a match against an Italy side that was more than there for the taking. Again, an early goal from Luke Shaw gave England fans hope that this could be a comfortable victory.
Fast forward over 120 minutes, and England had (again, in tournament football), lost on penalties against a very average Italy team, in their own backyard, in front of more than 70,000 England fans at Wembley.
There was much hope from Southgate’s side at the recent edition of the World Cup after galloping through qualifying, boasting arguably some of the most talented young players they have had for a long time.
Of course, there was always going to be stiff opposition, though no one really, who England could not handle if they played to their best. A seemingly well-executed group phase from Southgate set up a potentially tricky tie against Senegal. The unexpected 3-0 win had fans starting to believe again.
France followed in the quarter-final – firm tournament favourites at this point. Perhaps this was a game where you could justifiably say England was unlucky to lose. While previously against Croatia and Italy, the team ‘took their foot off the gas’ upon scoring, this time round was certainly a lot different.
When they finally got to grips of the speed of the French counter-attack after 20 minutes, the Three Lions actually looked like a threat themselves. You could pick holes in the opener from France; Aurelien Tchouameni wasn’t closed down quick enough, or Jordan Pickford didn’t move his feet before diving – the fact is, it was a fantastic strike.
The second half saw England taking the game to France and definitely looking like the better team. They were rewarded with a penalty that Harry Kane converted, and seemed as though they could go on to win. Olivier Giroud’s goal against the run of play put France back in the lead, though another penalty award to England was a reward for their efforts.
It seemed as if extra time would be inevitable, with a belief that England could come out on top, though Kane scooped his penalty over the bar. It would perhaps be harsh to suggest that the 2-1 defeat was deserved, though to bow out at a quarter-final stage could be argued to be a ‘step back’.
What Has Gone Wrong For Southgate In Tournaments?
It would be easy to blame failure at each tournament on just one thing, though it is fair to say that a number of variables played their part.
What might be argued is that throughout the three tournaments, every team (perhaps with the exception of France) have not been considered to be in the ‘world class’ bracket. Croatia had talent, though were definitely beatable, while Italy were distinctly average and there for the taking. Germany, who England defeated at Euro 2020, was nowhere near the team that they once were, and the win was perhaps hardly surprising.
It is almost ironic to suggest that the team’s recent defeat against France was unlucky or that they at least deserved the opportunity to take the game into extra time. England, for most parts during that game, made the reigning champions look mediocre, and it would be harsh to attribute blame for either France’s goal and especially Kane’s penalty miss.
Certainly, lessons had been learned from previous tournaments where England had focused on defending a lead as soon as they scored; Croatia made them pay for this, their talented ball-playing midfielders, time and again, proving more than capable of finding a way through their defensive lines.
Against Italy two years later, it appeared to be bordering almost on lunacy to do this after taking the lead, though this is what the orders seemed to have been. Sit back and defend a lead against one of the most historically defensive teams in the world, though, who were nowhere near their previous levels. The goal Italy scored was riddled with defensive errors from England and more than allowed them back into the game.
To blame the penalty shootout, when considering the fact that this is a lottery, would be harsh; however, for older players to let younger, inexperienced players step up and take them when they should have been leading by example could have been the difference-maker.
Below we take a look at some of the vital statistics that weigh up Southgate against some of his predecessors.
Games Won At Major Tournaments As Manager
ManagerWinsGareth Southgate11Alf Ramsay8Sven Goran-Eriksson7Bobby Robson5
Highest Win Percentages Of England Managers
Manager% WinsFabio Capello66.7 (P42 W28 D8 L6)Alf Ramsay61.1 (P113 W69 D27 L17)Glenn Hoddle60.7% (P28 W17 D6 L5)Gareth Southgate60.5% (P81 W49 D18 L14)Ron Greenwood60.0% (P55 W33 D12 L10)
Most Games Of England Managers
ManagerGamesWalter Winterbottom139Alf Ramsay113Bobby Robson95Gareth Southgate81Sven Goran-Eriksson67
England Managers With The Most Wins Overall
ManagerWinsWalter Winterbottom78Alf Ramsay69Gareth Southgate49Bobby Robson47Sven Goran-Eriksson40
Most Defeats Overall As England Manager
ManagerDefeatsWalter Winterbottom28Bobby Robson18Alf Ramsay17Gareth Southgate14Sven-Goran Eriksson10
Southgate’s England Records
Biggest win at a World Cup: 2018 vs Panama (6-1)Biggest win at a European Championship: 2020 vs Ukraine (4-0)Biggest competitive win in an international: 2021 vs San Marino (10-0)Worst competitive defeat in an international: 2022 vs Hungary (4-0)Longest run going unbeaten: November 2020 -March 2022 (22 games)
While each set of statistics undoubtedly tells a story, there is one in particular that those who are well and truly in Southgate’s corner will be keen to emphasise – the fact that he is the England manager who has won the most games at major tournaments.
This is perhaps a remarkable feat when considering the names that have come before him; Ramsay and Capello, in particular, while Hoddle did exceptionally well to get what was arguably a world-class England side to the semi-finals of Euro 1996 before agonisingly losing to eventual tournament winners Germany on penalties – indeed, Southgate himself, having missed the decisive spot-kick at Wembley.
It could well be a romantic sense of poetic justice, some almost 30 years later, should Southgate’s England team defeat Germany in Germany on penalties in the final. Stranger things have happened.
Can Southgate Improve Anything For The Next Tournament?
There is no doubt that Euro 2024, held in Germany, will come much quicker than many might expect. Though it is perhaps just enough time for Southgate to tweak certain things, while it may also just be the tournament where England can finally hit their peak.
It will see talented, emerging youngsters playing at the top of their game; the likes of Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, and of course, the irrepressible Jude Bellingham, arguably the key crop coming through.
Even the impressive Declan Rice, who has featured at the last two tournaments under Southgate and was a mainstay during qualifying, will only be 25, while Marcus Rashford, who showed glimpses of genuine quality in Qatar, is going to be 27 and arguably at the top of his game.
Essentially, it could be the best squad that England has ever taken to a major tournament if players continue improving at the level that they are expected to.
The defence may need a reshuffle. Harry Maguire, 29, exceeded expectations at the World Cup, despite having a patchy season so far with Manchester United, so the jury is out for his Euro 2024 selection. John Stones, at 28, hardly put a foot wrong and should he continue these performances, he could be a key pick.
Many eyes could be on a number of youngsters coming through the ranks, including Leeds United’s Charlie Cresswell (20) and Manchester City’s Taylor Harwood-Bellis (also 20), while at full-back you have Norwich City prodigy Max Aarons (22) and Leicester City’s Luke Thomas (21).
Of course, there are many youngsters coming through that Southgate may feel he needs to give chances to over the course of the next two years. Arsenal attacker Folarin Balogun (21) has six goals in 11 Under-21 appearances, while Everton’s Anthony Gordon (21) has scored four in seven.
Finding the right balance will be key for Southgate heading into the next tournament if he really is to justify his decision to stay on as manager and appease his doubters.
There could well be a question mark over England’s first-choice striker at the next tournament. While Kane didn’t exactly have a disastrous World Cup, he did appear to go missing in some games, and although he will be 30 at Euro 2024, this doesn’t necessarily matter if you are still performing – 36-year-old Giroud being a prime example.
Tammy Abraham (25) was, perhaps, unlucky to miss out on being selected for Qatar after proving last season with Roma that he is a goal machine (27 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions) – he will no doubt be hoping to make an impact during qualifying.
Was There Anyone Who Could Have Realistically Taken The England Job?
It was always going to be unlikely that Southgate would walk away from the job – clearly, he feels that he has unfinished business, so it would have been a brave decision from the FA to sack the best manager (the stats don’t lie), that they have had for years.
Even so, it led numerous bookmakers to begin compiling odds for a number of candidates that could have been prime to take over. Many names have been thrown around over the last couple of years. Prior to his appointment as Newcastle United boss, it was thought that Eddie Howe would have been a suitable replacement for Southgate; however, the likelihood is that he will stay with the Magpies for at least the next two years if he can continue to improve them.
Brendan Rodgers’ name was for years circulated, with him touted to take over instead of Southgate; however, it could be argued that his reputation has declined after a difficult season so far with Leicester City. In addition, he isn’t English – something that many fans may have trouble accepting.
One name that does not appear to go away and who seems to be a popular choice is that of Graham Potter, who exceeded expectations during his tenure at Brighton and is proving to be just as effective at Chelsea. It could well be that if he is successful with the Blues over the next couple of years, Potter may become the overwhelming favourite to take over from Southgate in 18 months’ time, regardless of what happens at Euro 2024.
The most likely choice, had Southgate left his post this time around, though, is thought to have been between ex-Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel and former Tottenham and PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino, while Steven Gerrard was an outside possibility.
Each of the former two would have been an intriguing prospect. Pochettino has a strong track record working with youth talent and could have been effective, while Tuchel has proven to be a serial winner, having won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup with Chelsea, in addition to multiple other honours with Borussia Dortmund and PSG.
One of the biggest decisions for the FA over the last few years has been deciding whether to hire a foreign manager who has a track record winning trophies or go for a young, hungry, English candidate who understands what it means for the fans.
The decision to hire Southgate, while as yet, is to yield any major honours, there appears to have been continued progress over the last six years and nothing too embarrassing in the way of tournament eliminations.
As a result, it could well be argued that Southgate has done just enough to stay on as England’s boss for at least one more tournament.