We now know Gareth Southgate has been appointed as England football manager, after successfully negotiating a short period as an interim manager after Sam Allardyce stepped down under a cloud.
According to a report titled: “Gareth Southgate appointed England manager on four-year contract” – “Southgate, 46, stepped up from his role as England Under-21s manager in September following Sam Allardyce’s departure after only 67 days in charge. He oversaw two wins and two draws as interim boss and has signed a contract reportedly worth up to £2m a year.” Southgate is quoted as saying “I am extremely proud to be appointed England manager. However, I am also conscious getting the job is one thing, now I want to do the job successfully. I’m determined to give everything I have to give the country a team that they’re proud of and one that they’re going to enjoy watching play and develop.” It goes on to point out that while his record as a player is good, his managerial experience is limited, and then quotes a number giving him glowing endorsements.
While a short while ago few would have predicted Southgate would be England manager so soon, especially in the light of his relative inexperience and not having a high profile in the game, yet in the circumstances that were unexpected and in the light of how well he has performed already in the role, few would have been surprised by the appointment. His record as a player is a good one, including as an England International (57 caps). He has set a good example on and off the field and in being made captain of his clubs these are also notable achievements. I don’t know enough about Southgate’s managerial credentials but I have no quibble with the choice made. I wish Southgate well and hope that he will build a successful England side that will perform well. While he may be the “main man” in this, it is not something he can achieve by himself and I fear unless something changes in the game’s structure, it will not happen.
My main concern, however, is the England manager’s job has become over the years something of a poisoned chalice, with a number of managers stepping down in less than salubrious circumstances. Part of the problem has been that expectations for the England team in terms of winning important games and trophies have been high and they have under-achieved. It is easy to lay the blame at the door of the manager but in my view we should be looking elsewhere. Moreover, if playing for one’s country is the pinnacle of the game then that needs to be reflected in the way the game is run, and I fear it isn’t.