LONDON – Gareth Southgate has revealed that his family convinced him to stay on as England boss when he debated his future after the Qatar World Cup in December.
Even before the global showpiece kicked off, the 52-year-old was already unsettled by fierce criticism of England’s woeful Nations League performances.
He was still considering walking away following England’s 2-1 defeat against France in the World Cup quarter-finals. But Southgate then spent a week thinking over his options before it was announced he would see out a contract that runs until December 2024.
“There was negativity about me being in charge and the last thing I wanted was for that to be the over-arching feeling going into a World Cup when you need the fans and everybody behind the team,” he told ITV News on Thursday.
“You need that energy; you need that sense of togetherness. And if the debate was only going to be about finding flaws in what we were doing, in order that I go at the end, then that would have been very difficult for the team to perform at their best.”
Southgate said the support of his family was key to his decision to extend an England reign that started in 2016. “They left Doha saying you’ve got to give this one more go and try to get this trophy,” he said.
The disappointment of England’s miserable Nations League campaign was quickly forgotten during the World Cup as Southgate’s side thrashed Iran and Wales in the group stage.
A 3-0 win over Senegal in the last 16 set up a quarter-final against France. England fell to a narrow defeat when Harry Kane fired a late penalty over the bar.
Southgate led England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, the European Championship final in 2021 and insists his players finally believe they can lift a major trophy after pushing France to the limit.
“The performance against France has shown the players if they didn’t believe it before, which I still wonder whether they truly believed that before the game, but coming off the field they know that is a game they could win and should have won,” Southgate said.
“We’re in a different landscape to any previous England team because of the success we’ve had. In our own minds, winning is probably the only thing that’s going to fulfil us.”
His attention is now focused on qualifying for Euro 2024. England are Group C with Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.
“I’m in a job with the chance to make some history and I have the privilege of leading the national team,” he said.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience. I think we’ve made progress with the team across the years we’ve been in charge and I’m determined to try and drive the team to that next step.
“I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.” AFP, REUTERS