Gareth Southgate is the man of the moment.
England hot favourites to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in 52 year.
If beating Sweden this afternoon then who knows…
It’s a funny old game, especially when you consider his only experience of club management saw him spend three years at Middlesbrough back in 2006-2009, taking them down into the Championship and eventually getting the sack.
No other club management roles followed and he ended up as a bit of a ‘company’ man within the England set-up.
Eventually taking on the Under 21 job and then after three years in that role, found himself catapulted into the top job in 2016.
As is usually the case, England were handed a very easy qualifying group but Gareth Southgate could do no more than he did, the team winning eight and drawing two, finishing eight points clear at the top of the group.
England entered the World Cup finals with no excessive expectations but ever since that opening 25 minutes against Tunisia, that has all changed.
Exactly the right tactics saw England dominate an average team in those opening stages, pressing them high and it should have seen three or four goals instead of only the one.
A soft equaliser followed and a very very late Kane goal won it BUT the scene was now set, both media and fans were raving about the football Southgate’s players showed in that first part of the game.
We now find ourselves in the quarter-finals and Gareth Southgate has very quickly been put on a pedestal by many. The reality being England hammered a very poor Panama, lost in a game of two reserve sides against Belgium, then scraped through against Colombia after once again looking really good in the opening half of the match.
Talking to mates in the pub last night about this, it is funny how Sven is seen as such a failure by so many, yet he got England to two quarter-finals in his two World Cups.
As for Gareth Southgate, I found it hilarious how both media and fans were going so over the top about his supposed influence on the penalty shoot out success. His preparation supposedly making the difference this time.
The thing is, if that preparation was so innovative then why did Henderson miss his and Eric Dier very lucky with his – as the keeper should have saved it. The real difference came thanks to Colombia hitting the woodwork with one and Pickford making an outstanding save on another.
Gareth Southgate deserves of course to share the credit when the team win but on penalties, it is surely only down to how well players handle the occasion. If Colombia had put their five penalties away, then what would have been the conversation then?
Reality is that when you win then nothing else matters, managers can do very little once the players cross that white line.
Just look at Belgium, Roberto Martinez was heading for ridicule when two down against Japan. A late three goal fightback and then a superb win over Brazil and suddenly he is untouchable.
I think a lot of people, especially the media, don’t want to accept that this is simply a cup competition, once you get past the seeded groups that are in favour of the big/best teams, it is then anything can happen.
There are no sure things when only 90 minutes can decide your fate, this isn’t a full league season where the best team pretty much always wins.
Just look at last season’s Champions League final, Real Madrid defeating Liverpool and yet they finished third and fourth in their domestic leagues respectively.
This is a very open World Cup and Gareth Southgate & his players are in there with a great chance.
I’m not convinced he is a great manager but he comes over well, the team are playing for him, and good to see him getting the team on the offensive
The draw (luck!) has gone England’s way and now it is up to them to take advantage.
They say that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, here’s hoping that Gareth Southgate proves to be a bit of both.
He will deserve all the accolades if England succeed, but hopefully everybody keeps it in perspective, especially if this afternoon throws up yet another World Cup surprise.
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