Gareth Southgate proves he is he man to lead England after recent problems

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Gareth Southgate knew this time would come.

When a meaningless kickabout with one of the neighbours would feel like Manna from heaven.

For a couple of hours Southgate got to do what he likes best – plotting how to win a football match.

But Southgate has to deliver much more than results in return for his £3m-a-year wages – and it's fair to say the FA are getting a lot of bang for their buck.

Unlike they got from the disgraced Greg Clarke, whose unforgivable behaviour as FA chairman left Southgate having to sift through the rubble he's left behind.

The same applied when Harry Maguire found himself in a Greek courtroom this summer, or when Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden decided it was a bright idea to smuggle women into the team hotel in Reykjavik.

Or when numerous members of his squad broke lockdown rules with the sort of arrogance Southgate has tried so hard to drum out of them.

Southgate had to think long and hard about taking the England job in 2016.

Time has shown he did the right thing, but Southgate worried about the impact it could have on his family and knew the demands of the role would test him to the limit.

When Sven Goran Eriksson was England boss he might have had his hands full with GoldenBalls (aka David Beckham), WAGS and some riotous behaviour in Baden Baden during the 2006 World Cup.

With respect to Eriksson, he wouldn't have stood a chance if he'd been in Southgate's shoes of late, because the storm he's somehow survived has been on another level.

Southgate has demonstrated once again how he's become a statesman-like figure, comfortable when transitioning between sport, politics and various social issues. All against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Finding room in his side for Jack Grealish has been the least of his problems.

Standards matter to Southgate and he has set high ones indeed, but even someone as strong and versatile as him is now at risk of succumbing to the constant mental pressures of a job that has been a consistent poisoned chalice.

Southgate turned 50 in September and remains in tip-top condition. Running around Swinsty Reservoir near his Harrogate home, combined with walking his beloved labrador and cockapoo dogs see to this.

But what is the ongoing toll on his mind – and will Southgate have the fortitude and desire to keep putting himself through the footballing circus until the next World Cup?

We all hope he does, but if next summer's Euros prove to be his last shot at glory, then few would blame him for walking away in a bid to save his sanity.

  • Gareth Southgate
  • England Football Team
  • David Beckham
  • Harry Maguire
  • World Cup
  • Family
  • WAGs

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