The Three Lions boss heads up his second major tournament this summer and has reflected on how the challenges in his playing days have shaped him
Gareth Southgate has opened up on how the struggles of his own career have helped shape his approach as England manager, reflecting on how players must learn to not let rejection define them despite the setbacks they face.
The Three Lions boss takes charge of his second major tournament this summer, following a last-four finish at the Russia 2018 World Cup and a bronze medal at the 2019 Nations League in Portugal.
It comes after a testing term, with multiple factors from Covid-19 and bizarre crowd reactions to anti-racism protests to potential burnout and the pressure of a near-home event, all factored in – and speaking ahead, the 50-year-old has reflected on how those difficulties can be part of growing up in the professional game.
What has been said?
“I struggled a lot at the start [of my career],” Southgate revealed in a new YouTube documentary, Raise Your Game with Gareth Southgate. “It wasn’t just for fun anymore, it was your job.
“I was dropped from the youth team. You then have that realisation ‘if this is what I really want to do then I have to step up’. We all get rejected and we either allow that to define you or you bounce back.
“Football, like a lot of sports, you have got to mature at a very young age and very quickly. By that point your family can’t necessarily help you, they don’t understand the world that you have gone into.
“I had to realise that “this is a man’s world, it is highly competitive and if this is what I want to do I have got to get better.”
Southgate acknowledges selection blows
The uneasiness of the Covid-19 situation, combined with three Premier League teams making the twin European club finals this term, means that Southgate’s preparations have been wildly disrupted, forcing him to name an expanded provisional squad last month ahead of the final cut.
It means that several players invited into the fold, such as James Ward-Prowse and Jesse Lingard, will head into the off-season having seen their hopes of playing at a major tournament dashed, and the manager has admitted that it takes something special to not only be in the mix for international honours but to face near-miss rejection too.
“The process of surviving the cut off of different selections at different ages hardens you and you realise to survive in the professional game is almost an achievement in itself,” he added.
“To actually get to the top is so difficult. People would say ‘sacrifices’ but maybe ‘choices’ is the better word. That commitment to living your life in the right way. It gives you the best chance to succeed.”
The bigger picture
The rescheduled pan-continental competition will thrust Southgate and his side further under the spotlight given the circumstances it is being played under, and will require all the mental mettle that the former England youth boss has shown since taking the role in 2016.
Tests against old World Cup enemy Croatia, a clash with neighbours Scotland and the potential banana-skin of the Czech Republic all await a Three Lions side coming off two second-string victories in warm-ups over Austria and Romania.
In a worst-case scenario, Southgate is unlikely to face additional pressure surrounding his future, however, the quick turnaround ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup next year all but assures he will likely lead England into a third major tournament.