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Opinion

Gareth Southgate MUST keep the England job – Otherwise it could be disaster

2 weeks ago
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Gareth Southgate is making a ‘few’ headlines on Wednesday morning.

Not the best of months for the England boss.

Draws against Germany and Italy don’t sound too bad BUT when bookended by defeats to Hungary home and away, doesn’t sound too good.

As a Newcastle United fan, first and foremost (and on every other level), my big / only interest was in Kieran Trippier.

He helped England to those credible draws against Italy and Germany, whilst not playing in his ideal right-back position, filling in at left-back where he can more than hold his own still. The Newcastle defender was one of England’s best players in both matches.

Happily, Trippier can take no ‘credit’ for the two really poor games / defeats against Hungary, not playing a single minute in either the 1-0 away defeat or 4-0 home loss.

For Gareth Southgate of course, these defeats were very much on his watch. As it happens, I do think Gareth Southgate is a really good bloke, though not a particularly good manager.

It was no surprise to me last night, the big problem for me is that Southgate is so negative with the way he sets the team up and pretty clueless in terms of producing any credible attacking intent. Last night was pretty much like any other England performance under Gareth Southgate in terms of how he approached it, England only had two efforts on target and I think they were both headers from Stones at set-pieces. Yes I know Hungary ended up 4-0 winners but they basically had only six shots in total, five on target, scoring four. They had some counter-attacks and punished England, plain and simple.

I felt sorry for Gareth Southgate with the booing at the end, he wasn’t doing anything different to normal. Just his usual limited and scared approach, which on this occasion saw perfect execution from the opposition from the handful of chances they created. Otherwise, it would / could have been just yet another tedious boring game to add to the list, probably a goalless draw.

There are arguments about how good (or not) this England squad is, the players Gareth Southgate has available.

Well, if I was thinking of this group of players as a Premier League team and where they could / should finish, I would say clearly behind Man City and Liverpool currently but battling Chelsea for third spot. For me, the players Gareth Southgate has available are definitely better than the likes of Spurs, Arsenal, Man Utd’s and everybody else’s current PL teams / squads.

I hear people say, well, by getting to the semi-final of the last World Cup and final of the Euros, Gareth Southgate has PROVED he is the right man and has performed beyond any reasonable expectations.

Hmmm, well…yes AND no.

The thing is, these are cup competitions, it isn’t like the World Cup is a league where all the best countries play each other home and away, then you find out how good you really are. Instead, the luck of the draw is massive. The same applies to the Euros.

In England’s group to qualify for the Qatar World Cup, in their group they had (with current world rankings – England are rated fifth) Poland (26), Hungary (40), Albania (66), Andorra (153) and San Marino (211).

Honestly, time after time England are basically given a bye into the finals.

These line-ups of easy games also help distort stats.

England have scored 37 goals and only conceded 10 in their last fourteen matches. However, 20 (TWENTY) of those goals came in only three games, games that were World Cup qualifiers and supposed to be competitive fixtures, against Andorra and San Marino. Statistics are pretty meaningless these days in international football, especially when it comes to the top goalscorers in the various national teams. These past 20 or so years it has just become a joke, how was Harry Kane ever going to fail to become England’s ‘greatest ever’ goalscorer. I like Kane but he’s no Shearer or Lineker or any of the other greats that preceded those two.

The last fourteen fixtures for England have produced seven wins, four draws and three defeats:

England 1 Italy 1 (England lost on penalties) – 11 July 2021 (Euros final)

Hungary 0 England 4 – 2 September 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

England 4 Andorra 0 – 5 September 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

Poland 1 England 1 – 8 September 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

Andorra 0 England 5 – 9 October 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

England 1 Hungary 1 – 12 October 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

England 5 Albania 0 – 12 November 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

San Marino 0 England 10 – 15 November 2021 (World Cup qualifier)

England 2 Switzerland 1 – 26 March 2022 (friendly)

England 3 Ivory Coast 0 – 29 March 2022 (friendly)

Hungary 1 England 0 – 4 June 2022 (Nations League)

Germany 1 England 1 – 7 June 2022 (Nations League)

England 0 Italy 0 – 11 June 2022 (Nations League)

England 0 Hungary 4 – 14 June 2022 (Nations League)

Once again, you scratch the surface and this record is pretty poor in reality.

The seven wins have come in qualifiers against San Marino, Andorra (twice), Albania and Hungary, plus home friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Gareth Southgate and England actually tend to get pretty decent results against the better teams in friendlies, I include these daft Nations League matches as friendlies as well.

Other top countries use these games purely as preparation for finals of the World Cup and Euros, whereas for England they do tend to take them just as seriously as competitive games, or at least a lot more so than others.

This is basically proven time after time, tournament after tournament.

When have Gareth Southgate and England beaten top teams in the finals of either tournament?

The much fabled World Cup in Russia…England lost to Belgium (twice!) and Croatia in the finals, their only convincing win against a remotely credible team was 2-0 over Sweden, needed a late goal to beat Tunisia, hammered Panama(!), beat Colombia on penalties.

Even when gifted an absolute golden route through, England and Gareth Southgate still were lucky to get to the semis. So that spectacular World Cup for England ended with stats of won four and lost three, Colombia on penalties probably the toughest team that they managed to beat.

The Euros last year was a similar story, a really weak Euros I think as well, when you look back on it. England losing to an Italian team who weren’t great and the big win was over Germany who were really on a downward slope and are now regrouping and reinventing themselves. Rather than some remarkable effort to finish runners-up, I think Gareth Southgate wasted the biggest / easiest opportunity in a long long time for England to win something, an opportunity that I doubt will come again any time soon.

England has experienced an unbelievable luck of the draw, in the other half of the draw the knockout stages saw somehow France, Belgium and Spain all manage to find ways to exit. England would have lost to all three of those for  sure.

To simply stick to got to World Cup semis and Euros final without acknowledging luck played a massive part for Gareth Southgate, is just ridiculous.

When Newcastle United under Kenny Dalglish got to the FA Cup final in 1998, NUFC beat Stevenage, Tranmere and second tier Sheffield United in the semis! The toughest ties were against Barnsley who got relegated from the Premier League that season and Everton who finished fourth bottom. Newcastle beaten by Arsenal in the final.

Likewise, the only cup final Steve Bruce has ever got to in his entire management career, was in 2014. Managing Premier League side Hull City, the only Premier League side he beat in the run to the final was Sunderland! Brucey’s Hull also losing to Arsenal in the final.

These two cup runs sum up just how much luck can play a part in cup competitions. Gareth Southgate has had bucketfuls of luck and surely has used up most of it by now.

However, Gareth Southgate MUST stay as England manager and lead them into these finals in Qatar.

Not that I think that anything remotely positive will happen. Probably scrape though the group against USA, Iran and Wales (what was I saying about his luck ending, just look at that group!), then knocked out by the first good team England will face.

I admit I am selfish, I want Gareth Southgate to crawl along with England because I absolutely don’t want England knocking on Eddie Howe’s door.

He has got a far more important job to be getting on with…

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