Football: Southgate is tough, but he has personal touch

England caretaker manager Gareth Southgate overseeing training at St George's Park. He often employed a diamond midfield formation with the Under-21s and may use similar tactics in tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against minnows Malta at Wembley.
England caretaker manager Gareth Southgate overseeing training at St George's Park. He often employed a diamond midfield formation with the Under-21s and may use similar tactics in tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against minnows Malta at Wembley.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Stones backs steely Southgate as permanent boss, says he has right temperament & skills

LONDON • Gareth Southgate has the required ruthless streak to be England's next permanent football manager, according to John Stones.

The England defender added that members of Southgate's first squad are impressed with the time the 46-year-old has taken to speak with them on an individual basis since they convened at St George's Park this week.

England face Malta tomorrow in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in the first of Southgate's four-game temporary stewardship since he stepped up from his role with the Under-21s to replace the disgraced Sam Allardyce.

Yet there is already confidence within the squad, voiced by Manchester City's Stones, that Southgate has the qualities and the self-confidence when it comes to difficult decisions to take on the position full time.

Asked if Southgate is tough enough to assume the role, Stones said: "Being a defender I think it is born into him. Every manager needs to know when to have the ruthless streak in telling the players what they need. I have experienced that (with Southgate) in the Under-21s.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE

I have been in situations in games where we weren't playing well and doing what he wanted and he came in at half-time and told us precisely that. We went on to turn it round and that is a great quality to have.

JOHN STONES, England defender, on working with interim coach Gareth Southgate during his Under-21 days.

"I have been in situations in games where we weren't playing well and doing what he wanted and he came in at half-time and told us precisely that. We went on to turn it round and that is a great quality to have.

"I can't see why he couldn't take on the role. He knows all the players, he has been in the set-up and he's been great for the Under-21s. It is a new challenge and chapter for him and I am sure he will be relishing coming here and working and trying to do his best in these four games."

The England players were also appreciative of the fact that he speaks to them one on one and gives advice on the good and bad things in order for them to improve.

Stones told Sky Sports News: "At meal times or down time he's always making time to spend a few minutes, whatever amount of time it is, to see how you are, how you're doing with your club football and what he expects from you here."

The 22-year-old, revived by his summer move from Everton to City, is expected to win his 12th cap against Malta and Southgate will be stepping up the side's tactical preparations at St George's Park.

He often employed a diamond formation with the Under-21s and the make-up of his senior side may lend itself to a similar approach against a team ranked 176th in the world and the whipping boys-elect of the section.

That could mean Dele Alli employed at the tip, operating just ahead of Wayne Rooney and Jordan Henderson, and Eric Dier anchoring.

Marcus Rashford, who scored a hat-trick for Southgate's Under-21s against Norway last month, is likely to start up front in an attack-minded selection aiming to seize the early momentum in Group F, after a traumatic few months.

"For any manager that's been here, whether Roy Hodgson or Sam Allardyce, it's always the same," Stones added.

"We want to win for us, for the coaching staff, for the fans, for everyone that's involved in England.

"And definitely for Gareth now, while he's here with his coaching staff. It's going to be an exciting four games and hopefully it is going to be good for the future as well."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2016, with the headline 'Tough but he has personal touch'. Print Edition | Subscribe