The 2018 World Cup gets underway today, with former Crystal Palace trainee Gareth Southgate set to lead England’s players out in Russia. For a man with such humble beginnings, it’s quite remarkable to see him having reached such heights, as this piece explains.
Ask almost anyone with even a passing interest in football to tell you the first thing they think of when the name “Gareth Southgate” is mentioned and most will immediately recall his Euro 96 penalty miss in the semi-final against Germany but now, with England’s World Cup hopes resting in his hands, he’s all set to add another chapter to his story out in Russia.
Had you told any of his Palace teammates of the path he would go on to tread when he was cleaning the club’s Mitcham changing rooms as an apprentice, most would no doubt have laughed, such was his mild manner. Having grown up outside of the south London bubble, Gareth had a slightly different perspective on life than most of his contemporaries back then, not that it stopped him from blending in once he learned the lay of the land.
There have been tactical previews and think-pieces aplenty floating around the English press over the last week or so but the above article on Southgate offers something entirely different; a look back through time in an attempt to establish the events which have led him to the lofty post he holds today. Quite rightly, it features the boys from SE25 quite heavily and paints the Three Lions boss in an honest light. In truth, his managerial style is a product of the setbacks he’s endured, meshing together his experiences as a pro with thinking from beyond the goldfish bowl of the professional game to arrive at a point which strikes a welcome balance between the two worlds.
No one is suggesting that Southgate has the tactical tools or indeed the players necessary to take us all the way; this tournament has never been about that. Instead, the World Cup in Russia is about the new man laying foundations for the years to come, setting out his stall both in terms of style and team selection so that his methods can be embedded into the mindset of the nation ahead of the country’s astoundingly successful youngsters making their way into the senior side.
Having fought tooth and nail to make a success of himself as a teenager at Palace, this was never going to be a challenge he would approach in a half-hearted manner.