HomeEuro 2024EnglandIs it the right time for England to replace Gareth Southgate?

Is it the right time for England to replace Gareth Southgate?

The dust has settled after England’s World Cup exit. Prior to the tournament, a lot would have predicted a quarter final exit to France. However, the manner of the performance probably means that this tournament has gone better than expected. On the night, the Three Lions were the better team, dominating all of the stats, except the one that matters, goals scored. It was arguably the best performance under Gareth Southgate, with the tactical plan working against the world champions.

Tournament football is harsh. On the night, England played well and lost. It is an unusual phenomenon for this country, as we usually exit a tournament under a cloud. Even the defeats to Croatia in 2018 and Italy in 2021 were heavily criticised. This time, the gripes were minor and certainly not enough to call for a root and branch reform of the English game, as is normally common after a tournament defeat.

After the match, Southgate confirmed that he would take time to decide on his future as England manager. Again, this is also unusual. The England manager is normally hounded out by the press after a failure. There is a section of the England fanbase and media that believe Southgate is too nice and tactically limited to win a tournament. However, even these people aren’t demanding that the manager leaves his post.

For an England manager to still have a good amount of support in the country after three tournaments is incredible. It underlines how well Southgate has done since taking over reluctantly. He has changed the culture in the squad and there is now genuine belief that we can win a tournament. Under previous managers, the defeat to France would have been an accepted outcome as soon as the match was scheduled. This time, the players seemed to believe they would win.

Regardless of what you think about Southgate’s abilities as a tactician, there is no doubting his man management and leadership. The players want to run through brick walls for him and there is still complete belief that he is the right man to lead them. That is evident in every player interview throughout the tournament and in the aftermath of the France defeat.

International management is different to club management. Luis Enrique and Hansi Flick have both won the Champions League in the last few years. Neither managed to deliver in Qatar for their respective nations. You would argue both are much better tacticians than Southgate, but as yet, neither can say they are as effective in the international arena.

Southgate is a scholar of the game and he has built an excellent understanding of what is required in international football. He may have made some mistakes along the way, but you would expect England to be one of the favourites to win Euro 2024 if he remains in charge.

If he does leave, it puts the FA in a difficult position. There would be a preference to hire an English manager. That has always been the case historically and journalists have pushed forward that in recent days. However, there isn’t an obvious successor ready to take over. The FA will still believe Southgate is the right man for the job.

Eddie Howe and Graham Potter are both future England managers, but neither will be jumping to take the job at this time. They are both working for big Premier League clubs with high aspirations. Steven Gerrard is a former England captain, but things ended badly at Aston Villa. There were doubts cast about his man management. It doesn’t feel like an upgrade on Southgate.

Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel are both popular among England supporters. Both understand and love the English game. They would be a more natural fit than Sven Goran-Eriksson or Fabio Capello ever were. However, there are no guarantees either would take the job.

This feels like the wrong time to change manager. If Southgate decides to leave, he couldn’t be blamed. The job is heavy and he will know better than anyone else that few get to leave on their own terms. After three successful tournaments, he might decide to quit while he is ahead.

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