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Gareth Southgate’s awkward revolution His vision of Englishness is more than the liberal trope

Gareth Southgate - England's anteater (Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate - England's anteater (Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images)


June 16, 2023   6 mins

Shortly after he got the England job, somebody on Twitter (and, as far as I can tell, nobody remembers who) said that Gareth Southgate resembled “an anteater gradually realising it isn’t supposed to be able to talk”. It’s a description that, for all the reams of copy subsequently produced about him, has yet to be equalled. Indeed, that was part of the charm of his first World Cup in 2018, when England, with an almost hysterical recognition that none of the usual rules seemed to apply any more, reached the semi-final.

There was something touchingly awkward about Southgate. He seemed shy and decent, his fabled waistcoat a totem of a nobler age as he probed at the boundaries of his role, recognising that this wasn’t just about getting a result against Tunisia or working out a way not to be terrible at penalties — that being England manager meant he could, perhaps should, play a social role. 

By 2021, he had fully embraced this, writing an open letter in which he set out the “duty” of England players to “interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice”. Two years on, that letter has inspired James Graham’s play, Dear England, which launched at the National this week.

Football has a way of catching up with all managers. As Brian Clough’s great mentor Harry Storer observed, it is a game in which nobody ever says thank you. Successes are quickly forgotten; frustration the default mood. After leading England in three tournaments, there’s a background grumble of discontent around Southgate. He’s too defensive, too grey, too soft, pundits and fans complain; he needs to release the handbrake and let this unprecedented generation of attacking talent take wing. They must be unleashed. That he has overseen a level of achievement not enjoyed since the days of Alf Ramsey half a century ago, or that he has been in charge for 40% of all major knockout games ever won by England, is often ignored.

Southgate became England manager by mistake, which was greatly to his advantage. The England national team had been in a mess for a decade. Sven-Göran Eriksson had left after the Wag-fuelled hedonism and disappointment of the 2006 World Cup. Under Steve McClaren, England failed even to qualify for Euro 2008 — then the 2010 World Cup, under the Italian martinet Fabio Capello, was even worse than 2006. Roy Hodgson, with his accent from British gangster films of the Sixties, was a step back to traditional virtues. But nothing improved. The nadir came as they were eliminated from Euro 2016 by Iceland four days after the Brexit referendum. 

“Fuck off, Europe, we voted out,” chanted fans, as Europe and the quarter-finals went on quite happily without England. Hodgson was replaced by Sam Allardyce who lasted 67 days before the Football Association panicked and forced him to resign following a Telegraph sting that amounted to very little, but did, thanks to the lighting on the footage produced by their secret cameras, seem to depict him drinking a pint of wine. Continental sophisticate he was not; and he never made any secret of his pro-Brexit leanings. 

Enter Southgate, who was the Under-21 coach and whose main draw was the fact he was available. He seems neither to have sought nor particularly wanted the job; he was very much an accidental hero, a Richard Hannay figure plucked suddenly from the largely uneventful world of youth football into one of highest-profile roles in the country. He thrived. England have probably never gone into a World Cup with lower expectations than they did in Russia 2018. But Southgate created a likeable, engaging side. They had fun in a swimming pool with inflatable unicorns. They hammered Panama. They even won a penalty shoot-out. 

And through it all, Southgate seemed an admirably calm, unflappable presence. After the penalty shoot-out win over Colombia, he made a point of consoling both Colombia’s coach, José Pékerman, and Carlos Bacca, who had missed the decisive kick. There was an old-fashioned decency about him that stood in obvious contrast to the post-Brexit machinations in Westminster. To a certain constituency, there was something consoling in that: this was an appealing image of Englishness.

But it was not everyone’s image of Englishness. When, following a squad discussion (for Southgate’s leadership is, of course, consensual), England players took the knee before a pre-Euro 2020 friendly in Middlesbrough, they were booed. That was the context of Southgate’s open letter. During the pandemic, footballers (and their pay packets) also became an easy target for politicians seeking a scapegoat — Matt Hancock, unsurprisingly, foremost among them. 

Now, footballers’ wages may be obscene, but are they more obscene than, say, the pay of hedge-fund managers or the executives of utility companies? Why were they not urged to sacrifice more? Could it be because, for those critics and the audience they were appealing to, the social background of the person making the money is what really counts?

If anything, football generally demonstrated its social conscience during lockdown. It wasn’t just Marcus Rashford and his campaigns for free meals for schoolchildren during holidays; Jordan Henderson organised the Players Together campaign to arrange donations to the NHS, while countless others made donations to hospitals, food banks and local charities. A couple of decades ago, sports stars were essentially billboards: their off-pitch purpose was to wear their sponsors’ gear and keep quiet. Post-Colin Kaepernick, though, there has been an increasing willingness to speak out on political issues. Whether that is, as Southgate said, a “duty” or merely a right is debatable, but, particularly as football has become a theatre for Middle Eastern foreign policy, it seems absurd to expect players to “stick to football”.

What is notable now about Southgate’s letter, published a week after the booing at Middlesbrough (and two days after taking the knee at a subsequent game brought boos that were soon drowned out by applause), is how defensive it is. He emphasises his patriotism, filtered through the figure of his grandfather, who served in the Royal Marines in the Second World War. He talks about his love of the queen and pageantry, and describes England as “an incredible nation”. There is a very deliberate distancing of himself from the suspicion he might be a bit Remainery, a bit cosmopolitan, a bit liberal.

More significant is his focus on the “pride” that he insists all England players feel, which is ostensibly a rebuttal of the charge that modern players in their gilded bubbles don’t care for the national team, but seems also, in the context of the booing of support for Black Lives Matter, to hint at his multicultural, multiracial team as the avatar of a more diverse England. And this is one of the ironies of football: it still has huge issues with race, both in terms of abuse from the terraces and of representation in the dugout, in the boardroom and in the press-box. On the pitch, though, football is as diverse an industry as there is in England: obviously nothing is absolutely perfect but, by and large, teams are meritocracies in which the only question asked is how good you are. 

After attacking those who “choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin”, Southgate wrote that “it’s clear to me that we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society”, which seemed an extremely optimistic take on how post-Brexit England may appear. The racist abuse suffered online by Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after they missed penalties in the shoot-out in the final perhaps came as a grim reminder of how far that ideal world is from the reality.

There was also a disappointing dose of reality in Qatar last year as England (and every other team) were timid in highlighting just how disgraceful it was that the World Cup was being held in a country so obviously in breach of Fifa statutes against discrimination on race, gender and sexuality, or that infrastructure had been built through scandalous labour practices. But perhaps that is understandable: a football team is primarily a football team; it’s not a vehicle to drive social change. Certainly, the players were not the villains in Doha.

But then football is itself a political act. Show me how you play, as the Uruguayan theorist Eduardo Galeano put it, and I will tell you who you are. Minor quibbles can be raised about Southgate as a manager, notably over his capacity to make in-game changes, but the most prevalent criticism is that he is too cautious. Again, this is not unique to him, and is a very common complaint at international level — partly because national sides, having less time to prepare, are always less slick than the best club teams; and partly because a lot of people with limited knowledge of football get involved at major tournaments and demand to be entertained and excited. 

For some, though, that has become merged with doubts over Southgate’s (apparently) liberal principles. He is the establishment bureaucrat thwarting the will of the people; if only he would stand aside, with his pettifogging insistence on process, the glory of the English people could be unleashed. This, of course, is precisely the arrogance that has dogged English football since countries outside Britain started to get good at the game a century ago: the assumed superiority that means England approach most tournaments believing themselves to be among the favourites.

In 2018, England had sunk to the point that expectation was lowered, which perhaps made it easier for Southgate to enact his decent revolution. By 2021, the expectation was back, and in Southgate’s insistence his players should be “humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves”, there seemed a veiled warning against the arrogance of old — the arrogance of English exceptionalism that, for some, perhaps, explained Brexit.

That has meant there has been an extra edge in some of the criticism of him; there is a clear sense from certain fans that Southgate is not one of them. But, as Southgate acknowledges, there are multiple Englishnesses. His is open, thoughtful and tolerant — which in the modern world feels a refreshing change. This is the word of the anteater.


Jonathan Wilson is a columnist for the Guardian and Sports Illustrated, the editor of the Blizzard and author of Angels With Dirty Faces: A Footballing History of Argentina.

jonawils

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Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

Southgate’s fatal mistake was to assume that England players were booed for “taking the knee” because fans were racist. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a negligible contingent of racist fans (who will be racists until the day they die and are not proof of “systemic racism in football”), the players were booed for naively appropriating an American gesture they probably didn’t understand the historical context of, bringing politics into football, and engaging in pointless virtue signalling that ultimately exacerbated a problem that barely existed. That’s why fans booed, and Southgate should have dropped the kneeling nonsense, not doubled down by getting sanctimonious about it. Furthermore, the hypocrisy of playing in a tournament hosted in a country that, literally, criminalises homosexual activity, whilst waving their rainbow flags at home has rendered English football, for this former fan at any rate, completely unwatchable. The author of this piece also needs to update his facts about “the pandemic” (not the spread of a deadly virus but hysteria whipped up by pharma industry in collusion with big tech to increase profit) and “BLM” (not a civil rights, anti racist campaign but a Marxist-infiltrated operation to further an agenda and disrupt social cohesion). Finally, the deeply confused (or perhaps fence-sitting) author should perhaps pick a “side”. Either he believes “…it seems absurd to expect players to ‘stick to football’“, or he believes “… a football team is primarily a football team; it’s not a vehicle to drive social change.” Can’t have it both ways! He bizarrely concludes that “…football is in itself a political act.” No it’s not, it’s a game that used to give respite from the political theatre of the day. But as we creep towards a totalitarian society driven by the digitisation of everything and irradiation of nuanced opinion then, yes, everything becomes viewed through the political filter of what is “right think” and “wrong think”. Depressing times.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

2020 – ‘HARRY KANE has confirmed England will take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before playing Iceland.’
2021 – ‘Gareth Southgate tells England fans that players kneeling is anti-racism, not ‘political stand’’
And the blatant lies told by Southgate when he explained that kneeling was never a gesture of support for BLM made me lose all respect for him.
Just like he had no respect for the people he lied to.
Don’t lie to our faces and expect people to support you.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

They were propagandised before our eyes… on so many issues. Dare we hope the tide is beginning to turn?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

NO.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

NO.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Rather like our “dearly beloved” BORIS then?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

It’s not a “lie” – that’s what it means to him and most of the people making that gesture.

The usual hysterical and hyperbolic language is as usual on show here.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

‘HARRY KANE has confirmed England will take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before playing Iceland.’’
Which part of ‘take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement’ means not supporting the Black Lives Matter movement?

June 2020 ‘Gareth Southgate stated that the journey to change isn’t easy but movements like Black Lives Matter are the spark to introducing change in society.’

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

‘HARRY KANE has confirmed England will take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before playing Iceland.’’
Which part of ‘take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement’ means not supporting the Black Lives Matter movement?

June 2020 ‘Gareth Southgate stated that the journey to change isn’t easy but movements like Black Lives Matter are the spark to introducing change in society.’

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

What would happen if an England player refused

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

Damnatio memoriae.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

Lex Cornelia de hostibus rei publicae.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

The second reference to Lucius Cornelius SULLA in 24 hours!
Things are looking up!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

The second reference to Lucius Cornelius SULLA in 24 hours!
Things are looking up!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

Lex Cornelia de hostibus rei publicae.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
11 months ago

It might depend on the colour of his skin and the reason.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

Damnatio memoriae.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
11 months ago

It might depend on the colour of his skin and the reason.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Well said. For football fans, there is also another dread shadow – one that is just a rumour – one utterly impossible to prove it must be said. But imagine – what if he selected the three young black stars for penalties simply to have them be seen to deliver victory..and so seek to secure a Dream Diversity climax??? Saka had not taken ANY Pens. Rashford had barely been on. Their selection makes NO sense whatsover. It would have been so irresponsible toward these brave lads.
Ok – it might be that Drunk Jack and all the other senior players ran away and bottled it. But there are grounds for suspicion as their selection was bewildering. This shadow is exactly what can happen if you make social/progressive justice and the colour of players skin a central tenet of your sporting purpose. The very fact that this might have happened tells you everything that is wrong with his knee bending England.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Do you think Southgate is positioning himself to be a candidate for the lucrative BBC woke sinecure of presenter of Match of the Day , when Gary Lineker goes . Gary seems to be opening up the possibility of a white replacement by retrospectively redefining himself as black .

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I must say I was shocked during the recent WC final penalty shootout when neither manager brought on 3 inexperienced Black teenagers to win it for diversity.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Genius!

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

Genius!

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I assumed at the time that was what was happening and have not doubted it since.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Do you think Southgate is positioning himself to be a candidate for the lucrative BBC woke sinecure of presenter of Match of the Day , when Gary Lineker goes . Gary seems to be opening up the possibility of a white replacement by retrospectively redefining himself as black .

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I must say I was shocked during the recent WC final penalty shootout when neither manager brought on 3 inexperienced Black teenagers to win it for diversity.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I assumed at the time that was what was happening and have not doubted it since.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Described above as a columnist for the guardian . As if we couldn’t guess

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

They were propagandised before our eyes… on so many issues. Dare we hope the tide is beginning to turn?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Rather like our “dearly beloved” BORIS then?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

It’s not a “lie” – that’s what it means to him and most of the people making that gesture.

The usual hysterical and hyperbolic language is as usual on show here.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

What would happen if an England player refused

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Well said. For football fans, there is also another dread shadow – one that is just a rumour – one utterly impossible to prove it must be said. But imagine – what if he selected the three young black stars for penalties simply to have them be seen to deliver victory..and so seek to secure a Dream Diversity climax??? Saka had not taken ANY Pens. Rashford had barely been on. Their selection makes NO sense whatsover. It would have been so irresponsible toward these brave lads.
Ok – it might be that Drunk Jack and all the other senior players ran away and bottled it. But there are grounds for suspicion as their selection was bewildering. This shadow is exactly what can happen if you make social/progressive justice and the colour of players skin a central tenet of your sporting purpose. The very fact that this might have happened tells you everything that is wrong with his knee bending England.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Described above as a columnist for the guardian . As if we couldn’t guess

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

The England fans booed the players for “taking the knee” in many cases because of this ridiculous gesture’s association with the racist anti-white hate group Black Lives Matter. I think the fans were absolutely right to boo. As a white man I am sick of and disgusted by the relentless sniping against us because of our skin colour.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Along with the RAF desecrating the grave of Guy Gibson’s*dog, that “knee-bending’ charade was about the most revolting thing I have seen in many a year.

(* Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO, a British ‘War Hero’ for US readers.)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Along with the RAF desecrating the grave of Guy Gibson’s*dog, that “knee-bending’ charade was about the most revolting thing I have seen in many a year.

(* Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO, a British ‘War Hero’ for US readers.)

Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

An excellent post.

steve hughes
steve hughes
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Good response. Also I seem to recall the online abuse directed at the 3 players who missed penalties were tracked as mostly coming from Russia.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

O tempora, o mores!

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

2020 – ‘HARRY KANE has confirmed England will take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before playing Iceland.’
2021 – ‘Gareth Southgate tells England fans that players kneeling is anti-racism, not ‘political stand’’
And the blatant lies told by Southgate when he explained that kneeling was never a gesture of support for BLM made me lose all respect for him.
Just like he had no respect for the people he lied to.
Don’t lie to our faces and expect people to support you.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

The England fans booed the players for “taking the knee” in many cases because of this ridiculous gesture’s association with the racist anti-white hate group Black Lives Matter. I think the fans were absolutely right to boo. As a white man I am sick of and disgusted by the relentless sniping against us because of our skin colour.

Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

An excellent post.

steve hughes
steve hughes
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

Good response. Also I seem to recall the online abuse directed at the 3 players who missed penalties were tracked as mostly coming from Russia.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

O tempora, o mores!

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
11 months ago

Southgate’s fatal mistake was to assume that England players were booed for “taking the knee” because fans were racist. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a negligible contingent of racist fans (who will be racists until the day they die and are not proof of “systemic racism in football”), the players were booed for naively appropriating an American gesture they probably didn’t understand the historical context of, bringing politics into football, and engaging in pointless virtue signalling that ultimately exacerbated a problem that barely existed. That’s why fans booed, and Southgate should have dropped the kneeling nonsense, not doubled down by getting sanctimonious about it. Furthermore, the hypocrisy of playing in a tournament hosted in a country that, literally, criminalises homosexual activity, whilst waving their rainbow flags at home has rendered English football, for this former fan at any rate, completely unwatchable. The author of this piece also needs to update his facts about “the pandemic” (not the spread of a deadly virus but hysteria whipped up by pharma industry in collusion with big tech to increase profit) and “BLM” (not a civil rights, anti racist campaign but a Marxist-infiltrated operation to further an agenda and disrupt social cohesion). Finally, the deeply confused (or perhaps fence-sitting) author should perhaps pick a “side”. Either he believes “…it seems absurd to expect players to ‘stick to football’“, or he believes “… a football team is primarily a football team; it’s not a vehicle to drive social change.” Can’t have it both ways! He bizarrely concludes that “…football is in itself a political act.” No it’s not, it’s a game that used to give respite from the political theatre of the day. But as we creep towards a totalitarian society driven by the digitisation of everything and irradiation of nuanced opinion then, yes, everything becomes viewed through the political filter of what is “right think” and “wrong think”. Depressing times.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago

My word. Where to start. Football “a game where nobody says thank you”. Ferguson (Manchester United), Guardiola (Manchester City), Maradonna (Napoli), Ranieri (Leicester), Simeone (Athletico Madrid) to name but a few from the last decade have all been, rightly, lavished with gratitude by their clubs. In the international arena the World Cup winning team of 1966 are always held in high esteem by England fans and more recently other countries who come home with trophies are lauded by their own nations as heroes. Why could this be? The author doesn’t grapple with this because it doesn’t fit his narrative.
The fact is that for all the sophistry of statistics we have never won a tournament under Southgate, even when we were favourites to do so, even from a winning position, even when we had home advantage. Simon Jordan has it right when he says that we have never beaten a team we weren’t expected to beat in a knockout game – Ukraine, Columbia, Denmark, Sweden, a poor German side who were getting caned in their own media during the tournament. We have lost to Croatia (truly a golden generation) 2018, Italy (who no one expected to make the final) 2020 and France (perennially top-notch) last time who all had weaknesses which were not exploited – neither Croatia nor France won the tournament remember. It is these facts along with other, more mercurial ones; other teams seem to change things with substitutions, other teams are not as cautious, other teams don’t choke when the pressure is on, that explain why Southgate is set to be a footnote in history. The very “niceness” which he embodies was perfectly encapsulated by a challenge on Saka by an italian defender (I want to say Chielini) in the Euro final, bringing down the younger, quicker man, rugby-style when he got turned on the half-way line and knew he couldn’t keep up. Ruthless, legitimate and tactically sound in spite of the howls from the english commentators. He mentions young players missing penalties without damning the senior professionals who deigned not to step up for fear of their own “Southgate moment”.
Unfortunately with Southgate at the helm England have been experiencing their own calcified Southgate moment for the last 3 tournaments – he was never the best player and he is now not the best manager. If England want the best then they need to hire the best (it’s not like the FA can’t afford it). But then they have got an inside yes-man who won’t rock the boat too much who is also english and keeps the players happy (for all the good that does).He says it is a good thing that the players are humble. Why shouldn’t they be? He says they are proud to represent their country. Why should this even be necessary to state?
On the politics I have been going too long already, suffice to say that at the first whiff of push-back from FIFA over highlighting the terrible gay rights issues in Qatar the whole team (and captain especially) caved and thought better to criticise our own country where we will face no sanctions. That’s not bravery and a lot of gay fans felt thrown under the bus. On the current crop of players’ charitable activity they are paid an obscene amount of money for playing a game – two decades ago this was not the case. The comparison with bankers (who run the economy) and utilities executive (who we wouldn’t last 5 minutes without – see South Africa) is risible and could only be written by a Guardian columnist. The links to Brexit are cope – one could say that England’s relative success has all come, you guessed it, in a post-Brexit nation more at ease with the sense of ourselves and our place in the world with players of British, Irish, European and non-European heritage who are all playing a more markedly more liberated way than the straight-jacketed stumbling of the EU years.
Still, roll on the Ashes!

Last edited 11 months ago by Milton Gibbon
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Synopsis: never mind how crap anyone is at their job, just feel how open, thoughtful and tolerant they are!

You can see why mediocre Oxbridge graduates might be very keen on woke.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Correct. What utter tosh. Southgate is a C grade timid defensive tactician who in successive big games – despite having the best squad in Europe – has been found to be totally out thought by the likes of Mancini. He simply froze like Bambi when they made changes. His activism and in particular his naive and toxic embrace of the BLM movement was similarly weak and destructive. Let’s see what big clubs offer him jobs when he finally – please God – quits the stage. Clue – none will.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

As I see it, anyone but England

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Upvote for this in particular:
“His activism and in particular his naive and toxic embrace of the BLM movement was similarly weak and destructive.”

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

As I see it, anyone but England

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Upvote for this in particular:
“His activism and in particular his naive and toxic embrace of the BLM movement was similarly weak and destructive.”

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
11 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Correct. What utter tosh. Southgate is a C grade timid defensive tactician who in successive big games – despite having the best squad in Europe – has been found to be totally out thought by the likes of Mancini. He simply froze like Bambi when they made changes. His activism and in particular his naive and toxic embrace of the BLM movement was similarly weak and destructive. Let’s see what big clubs offer him jobs when he finally – please God – quits the stage. Clue – none will.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Yep. Southgate has had amazing fortune with draws. I bet Sven wish had some of that luck. His best tournament with England, the 2002 world cup saw us up against Brazil in the quarters and history will view that as one of the very best international teams of all time. Southgate has been knocked out by a very talented but beatable Croatia, a fairly average Italy (didn’t even make the world cup) and France side ravaged by injuries.

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Southgates tournament performances could have done better but overall are the best since Ramsay..Luck is the biggest factor in tournaments and Sven was unlucky in 2004. In 2002 he played with 2 half fit players Beckham and Owen which meant they ran out of steam in every 2 nd half .He had options.In 2006 England were dire in every game except when they went down to 10 men against Portugal.Some of the best overall England performances have matches which they lost.Apart from the German ones in 1970 1990 and 1996 and Portugal in 2004 & 2006 there was the 1988 defeat to the Netherlands and the 1998 loss to Argentina . .

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Southgates tournament performances could have done better but overall are the best since Ramsay..Luck is the biggest factor in tournaments and Sven was unlucky in 2004. In 2002 he played with 2 half fit players Beckham and Owen which meant they ran out of steam in every 2 nd half .He had options.In 2006 England were dire in every game except when they went down to 10 men against Portugal.Some of the best overall England performances have matches which they lost.Apart from the German ones in 1970 1990 and 1996 and Portugal in 2004 & 2006 there was the 1988 defeat to the Netherlands and the 1998 loss to Argentina . .

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

The sad fact is that Southgate is a disaster. In every crucial match, the English team loose in penalty shootouts, and why Southgate always choses players who have chocked multiple times in penalty shoutouts is beyond me.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
11 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Isn’t it well known that management generally tends to chose those like themselves rather than effective people with talents they lack.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
11 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Isn’t it well known that management generally tends to chose those like themselves rather than effective people with talents they lack.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

“Obscene amounts of money” – this is a strong value judgement but I’m not sure what relevance this has to Southgate. Your defence of the utility rentier plutocrats who provide such a mediocre service is laughable.

What people are worth is what those paying the tune think they are worth.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Taking words out of context: “…for playing a game”. I didn’t make a defece of the utilities execs’ pay, just said that in a sane country it might be worth paying those who keep the lights on more than footballers.
Your last statement is just terrible and you should really reassess your values if you believe what you say to be true.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Taking words out of context: “…for playing a game”. I didn’t make a defece of the utilities execs’ pay, just said that in a sane country it might be worth paying those who keep the lights on more than footballers.
Your last statement is just terrible and you should really reassess your values if you believe what you say to be true.

Last edited 11 months ago by Milton Gibbon
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

“lot of gay fans felt thrown under the bus”
I am bored of this.
Countries like Qatar are horribly racist against South Asians (that’s why they didn’t care about dead construction workers) and hostile against Hindus. It’s also the kind of country where I would be uncomfortable about being out with my wife.
But you wouldn’t expect some footballers to whine and moan on my behalf.
I just stay away from there, and be grateful that both India (my original country) and Britain (my adopted one) are both much more tolerable, liberal and diverse.

“players’ charitable activity they are paid an obscene amount of money for playing a game”
And players like Rashford seem to have no gratitude for the financial support his family received, while the father of his family of four kids went missing.
And I haven’t seen St Rashford confirm that he doesn’t use tax avoidance schemes to get away from paying his fair share.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Synopsis: never mind how crap anyone is at their job, just feel how open, thoughtful and tolerant they are!

You can see why mediocre Oxbridge graduates might be very keen on woke.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Yep. Southgate has had amazing fortune with draws. I bet Sven wish had some of that luck. His best tournament with England, the 2002 world cup saw us up against Brazil in the quarters and history will view that as one of the very best international teams of all time. Southgate has been knocked out by a very talented but beatable Croatia, a fairly average Italy (didn’t even make the world cup) and France side ravaged by injuries.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

The sad fact is that Southgate is a disaster. In every crucial match, the English team loose in penalty shootouts, and why Southgate always choses players who have chocked multiple times in penalty shoutouts is beyond me.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

“Obscene amounts of money” – this is a strong value judgement but I’m not sure what relevance this has to Southgate. Your defence of the utility rentier plutocrats who provide such a mediocre service is laughable.

What people are worth is what those paying the tune think they are worth.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

“lot of gay fans felt thrown under the bus”
I am bored of this.
Countries like Qatar are horribly racist against South Asians (that’s why they didn’t care about dead construction workers) and hostile against Hindus. It’s also the kind of country where I would be uncomfortable about being out with my wife.
But you wouldn’t expect some footballers to whine and moan on my behalf.
I just stay away from there, and be grateful that both India (my original country) and Britain (my adopted one) are both much more tolerable, liberal and diverse.

“players’ charitable activity they are paid an obscene amount of money for playing a game”
And players like Rashford seem to have no gratitude for the financial support his family received, while the father of his family of four kids went missing.
And I haven’t seen St Rashford confirm that he doesn’t use tax avoidance schemes to get away from paying his fair share.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago

My word. Where to start. Football “a game where nobody says thank you”. Ferguson (Manchester United), Guardiola (Manchester City), Maradonna (Napoli), Ranieri (Leicester), Simeone (Athletico Madrid) to name but a few from the last decade have all been, rightly, lavished with gratitude by their clubs. In the international arena the World Cup winning team of 1966 are always held in high esteem by England fans and more recently other countries who come home with trophies are lauded by their own nations as heroes. Why could this be? The author doesn’t grapple with this because it doesn’t fit his narrative.
The fact is that for all the sophistry of statistics we have never won a tournament under Southgate, even when we were favourites to do so, even from a winning position, even when we had home advantage. Simon Jordan has it right when he says that we have never beaten a team we weren’t expected to beat in a knockout game – Ukraine, Columbia, Denmark, Sweden, a poor German side who were getting caned in their own media during the tournament. We have lost to Croatia (truly a golden generation) 2018, Italy (who no one expected to make the final) 2020 and France (perennially top-notch) last time who all had weaknesses which were not exploited – neither Croatia nor France won the tournament remember. It is these facts along with other, more mercurial ones; other teams seem to change things with substitutions, other teams are not as cautious, other teams don’t choke when the pressure is on, that explain why Southgate is set to be a footnote in history. The very “niceness” which he embodies was perfectly encapsulated by a challenge on Saka by an italian defender (I want to say Chielini) in the Euro final, bringing down the younger, quicker man, rugby-style when he got turned on the half-way line and knew he couldn’t keep up. Ruthless, legitimate and tactically sound in spite of the howls from the english commentators. He mentions young players missing penalties without damning the senior professionals who deigned not to step up for fear of their own “Southgate moment”.
Unfortunately with Southgate at the helm England have been experiencing their own calcified Southgate moment for the last 3 tournaments – he was never the best player and he is now not the best manager. If England want the best then they need to hire the best (it’s not like the FA can’t afford it). But then they have got an inside yes-man who won’t rock the boat too much who is also english and keeps the players happy (for all the good that does).He says it is a good thing that the players are humble. Why shouldn’t they be? He says they are proud to represent their country. Why should this even be necessary to state?
On the politics I have been going too long already, suffice to say that at the first whiff of push-back from FIFA over highlighting the terrible gay rights issues in Qatar the whole team (and captain especially) caved and thought better to criticise our own country where we will face no sanctions. That’s not bravery and a lot of gay fans felt thrown under the bus. On the current crop of players’ charitable activity they are paid an obscene amount of money for playing a game – two decades ago this was not the case. The comparison with bankers (who run the economy) and utilities executive (who we wouldn’t last 5 minutes without – see South Africa) is risible and could only be written by a Guardian columnist. The links to Brexit are cope – one could say that England’s relative success has all come, you guessed it, in a post-Brexit nation more at ease with the sense of ourselves and our place in the world with players of British, Irish, European and non-European heritage who are all playing a more markedly more liberated way than the straight-jacketed stumbling of the EU years.
Still, roll on the Ashes!

Last edited 11 months ago by Milton Gibbon
S R
S R
11 months ago

Wow. That was a frustrating read. Though, probably the strongest case that could be made for Southgate. The author does not address GS’s critics’ arguments well, or at all.

No consideration given to the downsides of speaking out on contentious social issues. No recognition given to the fact that working class fellas are being lectured to by millionaires in yet another aspect of their lives which was once a bit of a sanctuary for them.

I don’t think Southgate’s liberal principles are the issue, it’s his progressivism that is. I see enough of these types at my office. They usually mean well, but know little, and their preaching and self-righteousness offends the people who know better.

“But perhaps that is understandable: a football team is primarily a football team; it’s not a vehicle to drive social change.”

So his critics are *right* then?!

I could go on and on!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

I’m surprised the author didn’t explicitly blame Brexit for Southgate’s failure to win anything (ever).

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

This was written by a sports correspondent for ‘The Guardian’, what did you expect?

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

Agreed. Contrast “a football team [is] not a vehicle to drive social change” with the statement later on that “it seems absurd to expect players to “stick to football””. Pick one.

Last edited 11 months ago by Pat Rowles
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

I’m surprised the author didn’t explicitly blame Brexit for Southgate’s failure to win anything (ever).

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

This was written by a sports correspondent for ‘The Guardian’, what did you expect?

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
11 months ago
Reply to  S R

Agreed. Contrast “a football team [is] not a vehicle to drive social change” with the statement later on that “it seems absurd to expect players to “stick to football””. Pick one.

Last edited 11 months ago by Pat Rowles
S R
S R
11 months ago

Wow. That was a frustrating read. Though, probably the strongest case that could be made for Southgate. The author does not address GS’s critics’ arguments well, or at all.

No consideration given to the downsides of speaking out on contentious social issues. No recognition given to the fact that working class fellas are being lectured to by millionaires in yet another aspect of their lives which was once a bit of a sanctuary for them.

I don’t think Southgate’s liberal principles are the issue, it’s his progressivism that is. I see enough of these types at my office. They usually mean well, but know little, and their preaching and self-righteousness offends the people who know better.

“But perhaps that is understandable: a football team is primarily a football team; it’s not a vehicle to drive social change.”

So his critics are *right* then?!

I could go on and on!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 months ago

Ironically, on one hand they were pretending that blacks are “victims” in a country where 3% of blacks are 33% of footy players.
On the other hand, none of these were much concerned about a much bigger Indian / South Asian community having almost no representation in the EPL or national team.

Now, as an Indian origin, I am really happy about that. There is very little real racism in Britain, and if Indians progress (as they have in sat medicine, IT or academia) should be by their own efforts, not “diversity”.

But it does show you how two faced, moronic and genuinely racist these so called “anti racists” are.

Last edited 11 months ago by Samir Iker
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
11 months ago

Ironically, on one hand they were pretending that blacks are “victims” in a country where 3% of blacks are 33% of footy players.
On the other hand, none of these were much concerned about a much bigger Indian / South Asian community having almost no representation in the EPL or national team.

Now, as an Indian origin, I am really happy about that. There is very little real racism in Britain, and if Indians progress (as they have in sat medicine, IT or academia) should be by their own efforts, not “diversity”.

But it does show you how two faced, moronic and genuinely racist these so called “anti racists” are.

Last edited 11 months ago by Samir Iker
Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago

I loathe all spectator sports, with the obvious exception of women’s beach volleyball (or should that be “non-men’s beach volleyball” in wokespeak?). The assertion “there has been an increasing willingness to speak out on political issues” made me choke on my meusli. Pro footballers only speak out on soft (but worthy) issues, such as school meals for kids. And they do so on the advice of their image consultants.(Marcus Rashford is with the Huxley PR agency.)
The problem with pretending that a sports team is an “avatar of a more diverse England” is that it seriously backfires when the team proves to be mediocre. And what about the England women’s football team (Ooops, sorry, I meant to say the England non-men’s football team)? They are (a) successful, (b) all white and (c) don’t pretend to be an avatar.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
11 months ago

I loathe all spectator sports, with the obvious exception of women’s beach volleyball (or should that be “non-men’s beach volleyball” in wokespeak?). The assertion “there has been an increasing willingness to speak out on political issues” made me choke on my meusli. Pro footballers only speak out on soft (but worthy) issues, such as school meals for kids. And they do so on the advice of their image consultants.(Marcus Rashford is with the Huxley PR agency.)
The problem with pretending that a sports team is an “avatar of a more diverse England” is that it seriously backfires when the team proves to be mediocre. And what about the England women’s football team (Ooops, sorry, I meant to say the England non-men’s football team)? They are (a) successful, (b) all white and (c) don’t pretend to be an avatar.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter Kwasi-Modo
Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago

‘And this is one of the ironies of football: it still has huge issues with race, both in terms of abuse from the terraces and of representation in the dugout, in the boardroom and in the press-box. ‘

And , of course, in the wives and girlfriends that the multiracial England football players choose.
If you are Black, the chance of becoming a wife or girlfriend of an England football player is very small, Are the players racist? I can’t possibly comment.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
11 months ago

‘And this is one of the ironies of football: it still has huge issues with race, both in terms of abuse from the terraces and of representation in the dugout, in the boardroom and in the press-box. ‘

And , of course, in the wives and girlfriends that the multiracial England football players choose.
If you are Black, the chance of becoming a wife or girlfriend of an England football player is very small, Are the players racist? I can’t possibly comment.

Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago

Just a small point.
I read a comment somewhere where the poster asked ” how can you possibly expect to win a game when you start from your knees ? ”
People who took the knee in deference to a serial criminal are not men but curs.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stoater D
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Too kind sir, too kind.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Good comment, but would you mind in future quarantining the ridiculous phrase “taking the knee” inside quote marks.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Too kind sir, too kind.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Good comment, but would you mind in future quarantining the ridiculous phrase “taking the knee” inside quote marks.

Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago

Just a small point.
I read a comment somewhere where the poster asked ” how can you possibly expect to win a game when you start from your knees ? ”
People who took the knee in deference to a serial criminal are not men but curs.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stoater D
Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago

Football is a silly game and we should pay no attention to the political views of its practitioners. The only footballer I have any time for is Eric Cantona, for the kung-fu kick and the brilliantly self-effacing beer adverts.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

And a very onomatopoeic name!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

And a very onomatopoeic name!

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago

Football is a silly game and we should pay no attention to the political views of its practitioners. The only footballer I have any time for is Eric Cantona, for the kung-fu kick and the brilliantly self-effacing beer adverts.

Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago

Southgate is a woke beta- male and has no business leading a national sports team. He is everything that is wrong with Britain today.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stoater D
Stoater D
Stoater D
11 months ago

Southgate is a woke beta- male and has no business leading a national sports team. He is everything that is wrong with Britain today.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stoater D
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“Taking the knee” has completely turned me off football. I haven’t watched a game in about two years. I know Man City won the treble, and that Haarland scored lots of goals for them, but I haven’t seen a single one of his goals.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
11 months ago

“Taking the knee” has completely turned me off football. I haven’t watched a game in about two years. I know Man City won the treble, and that Haarland scored lots of goals for them, but I haven’t seen a single one of his goals.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
11 months ago

Never says thank you? Alex Ferguson became a Knight of the Realm, a wealthy man with a stand named after him at the ground. You just have to be good enough in a ruthlessly competitive environment.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
11 months ago

Never says thank you? Alex Ferguson became a Knight of the Realm, a wealthy man with a stand named after him at the ground. You just have to be good enough in a ruthlessly competitive environment.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
11 months ago

England simply aren’t good enough. Like most things in this country, England players suffer from the dominance of financialisation of anything and everything, the constant squeezing of the least dribble of profit from every level and phase of the game.

It doesn’t help in the slightest that the game’s management have drunk the diversity Kool Aid, while their supporters certainly haven’t. You couldn’t be less politically correct than Wayne Rooney or Paul Gascoigne, Vinnie Jones or Alan Shearer, but they are far closer to the terraces than Southgate or Lineker.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
11 months ago

England simply aren’t good enough. Like most things in this country, England players suffer from the dominance of financialisation of anything and everything, the constant squeezing of the least dribble of profit from every level and phase of the game.

It doesn’t help in the slightest that the game’s management have drunk the diversity Kool Aid, while their supporters certainly haven’t. You couldn’t be less politically correct than Wayne Rooney or Paul Gascoigne, Vinnie Jones or Alan Shearer, but they are far closer to the terraces than Southgate or Lineker.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

How very depressing, but cheer up we’re about to give the Aussies a ‘damned good thrashing in the ‘Ashes’.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago

I notice the Australians are growing increasingly frustrated with their preachy, woke young cricket team who want to save the planet (etc). So I hope they lose very, very badly indeed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Ben Stokes Esq is just the man to administer it!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

Providing his non-bending knee stands up to it!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

Providing his non-bending knee stands up to it!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Ben Stokes Esq is just the man to administer it!

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago

Looking forward to it, but not as confident as you.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Glad the first test is at Edgbaston. Throw the Aussies in the bear pit.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Glad the first test is at Edgbaston. Throw the Aussies in the bear pit.

Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago

Unlikely I think. Admirably English to be over-optimistic going into a major sports event though (though we seem to have lost some of that with football in the past 10 years and downplayed expectations quite successfully).

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago

Exciting first day. Stokes’ declaration was out of left field, even for him.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Agreed and also a little baffled!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Agreed and also a little baffled!

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
11 months ago

I notice the Australians are growing increasingly frustrated with their preachy, woke young cricket team who want to save the planet (etc). So I hope they lose very, very badly indeed.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago

Looking forward to it, but not as confident as you.

Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago

Unlikely I think. Admirably English to be over-optimistic going into a major sports event though (though we seem to have lost some of that with football in the past 10 years and downplayed expectations quite successfully).

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago

Exciting first day. Stokes’ declaration was out of left field, even for him.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

How very depressing, but cheer up we’re about to give the Aussies a ‘damned good thrashing in the ‘Ashes’.

Ben McMullen
Ben McMullen
11 months ago

The article claims that football still has “huge issues with race” including in terms of “abuse from the terraces”. That may be true in certain countries, but no longer in England. And this article is specifically about England and football

Ben McMullen
Ben McMullen
11 months ago

The article claims that football still has “huge issues with race” including in terms of “abuse from the terraces”. That may be true in certain countries, but no longer in England. And this article is specifically about England and football

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago

What are his ‘liberal principles’ ? The writer seems to be using ‘liberal’ to mean something like ‘left wing ‘

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago

What are his ‘liberal principles’ ? The writer seems to be using ‘liberal’ to mean something like ‘left wing ‘

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

the man is an illiterate thicko

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago

the man is an illiterate thicko

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
11 months ago

I love Southgate. He single-handedly reinvigorated my interest in the England team

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
11 months ago

I love Southgate. He single-handedly reinvigorated my interest in the England team