Gareth Southgate must go!
This is not an original thought. In fact, most English fans, as well as any football fan with eyes and a brain, have probably found themselves uttering the very same words.
Gareth Southgate is many things; nice, well-spoken, amiable, politically correct. One thing he’s not, though, is a top class manager.
A corporate type, very much a Yes Man, and quite possibly a cuck, one imagines that if Southgate wasn’t involved in football, he would be the manager of a local Tesco supermarket. Don’t worry folks, superior shopping trolleys are on their way. Have faith, Gareth will deliver.
Southgate, however, is not working at a local Tesco. He happens to be the manager of England, one of the biggest underachievers in international football. Now, if Southgate was to leave the national team, either of his own volition or otherwise, where would he go? Who would have him? Tesco? Sure. I mean, what football team would take him? Spurs? Not a chance. Everton? Nope. Crystal Palace? I doubt it. Carlisle? Now we’re talking.
My point here is a simple one, and it’s this: Top class players deserve a top class manager. This is not to say that England is a top class team. It’s not. With the likes of Bellingham, Foden, Grealish, Mount and Kane, however, the necessary ingredients for true greatness are there. Having the ingredients is all good and well, but if you don’t know how to bake a cake, then you’re left with nothing but individual products that fail to create a cohesive, unified final product.
Give Southgate players like Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, two of the best left backs in the game, and he will give you a right back in a left back’s position. Two games in, Jadon Sancho, one of the most exciting young players in world football, has yet to make an appearance. This is the level of imbecility we are dealing with here. If power begets power, what does idiocy beget?
Initially, Southgate was brought in to steady the ship. After the Big Sam scandal, steady hands were very much needed. Who better than Southgate? Well, plenty of people… but, at that time, his appointment was more out of necessity than desire. He was the English equivalent of the little Dutch boy who plugged the dike with his finger. Five years later, though, Southgate’s finger is still in the hole. Why?
After all, this is a man who was unceremoniously fired from his job at Middleborough, then spent four years doing nothing, before being named manager of England’s Under-21 side. Did he deserve the job? Of course not. Southgate was lucky. He was lucky to get the Middleborough job; he was lucky to get the Under-21 position; and he was very lucky to get his current role. In football’s answer to the managerial lottery, Southgate won not once, but three times.
If England are to be a successful international team, i.e. actually win silverware, Southgate must go. Not now, of course, but after the Euros are over and the English are inevitably knocked out by Hungary on penalties. You have a team of Lamborghinis being fuelled by the human equivalent of lukewarm tea. These boys need a master tactician, not a specialist in mediocrity. A magician, not a muppet.
Who should replace Southgate, though?
Well, with smaller, highly technical players like the aforementioned Sancho, Mount and Foden, one is reminded of the great Spain sides of the past, with Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas pulling the strings. Now, I am not comparing Foden with Iniesta, for example, or Mount with Xavi. I am not deluded. No, what’s needed, perhaps, is a manager with tactical nous and an ability to get the best out of technically gifted, highly talented, young players.
Gareth Southgate is not that man, clearly. Is what Vicente del Bosque accomplished with Spain possible with this English team? Probably not. However, with Joachim Low a free agent very soon, and Arsène Wenger eager to get back into football, better options than a glorified Tesco manager exist. If this England team is ever to be taken seriously, then, as obvious as it sounds, Southgate needs to go.
His departure is inevitable, but a sensible replacement is not. If Low was open to the idea of managing the English team, he would be a shrewd appointment. Alas, the English FA and shrewdness are far from synonymous in nature.
What can English fans expect? The appointment of Eddie Howe, or maybe the return of Steve McLaren and his umbrella? For England, the perennial underachievers, although McLaren is certainly not needed, an umbrella most definitely is. Because, unless things change at the top, more and more rainy days await the national team.