Boosting Singapore football has to start with fans

Everyone has hypotheses about England manager Gareth Southgate and the way he has brought success to the Three Lions.

I had stopped watching football for a long time, being sick and tired of the thuggery on the pitch.

The last time I saw "intelligent" precision football being played by the England team was a long time ago, under the management of Terry Venables.

Southgate was a member of Venables' team and he famously missed a penalty kick in the Uefa Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany.

Commentators seem to agree that the current young England team have been playing intelligently and with discernible teamwork.

My view is that Southgate has managed to transfer some of this intelligent playing learnt from Venables to his current young team.

At post-match interviews after beating Sweden, the goal-scorers were completely without airs and spoke in good standard English, quite the opposite to the prima donnas that dominated English football post-Venables.

These were young men, intelligent, respectful and skilled, wanting to make the country proud, and they know that the only way to do so is to work as a team, something the aforementioned prima donnas seemed to have forgotten.

For so many years, being called up to play for England was an inconvenience to Premier League footballers, not an honour or duty.

A national team needs a vision, and what could a lowly paid manager offer players who make so much more money then him?

England had experimented with offering over-the-top incentives to "foreign talent" managers, with abysmal results.

Southgate was considered inexperienced when he was picked, and he himself pushed the envelope when he picked the current "inexperienced" team.

Others who know him speak of his kindness, compassion and ability to empathise.

For me, Southgate is the personification of tenacity, reminding me of an English politician who famously said: "Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man."

Singapore does not have a Southgate yet.

But let's think: How might football come home to Singapore when football fans are more conversant with the transfer values of English Premier League players than names of our national team?

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)