Gareth Southgate has decided to continue as England’s head coach after considering his future in the wake of the World Cup quarter-final defeat by France.
Southgate said he would take time to weigh up whether he had the energy to carry on and hold talks with the Football Association, which wanted him to honour a contract that runs to December 2024. He feels the climate is very different from the negativity that followed the Euro 2020 final defeat and the recent Nations League campaign that ended in relegation. He has greatly valued the support of the FA chief executive, Mark Bullingham, and the other members of the hierarchy, while he retains the firm backing of his squad.
A feature of the World Cup campaign was the near-constant endorsement of Southgate from within the dressing room. After the loss to France Harry Kane, the captain, said he wanted Southgate to continue and Declan Rice and Harry Maguire did likewise.
Southgate led England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and to within a penalty shootout of winning the Euros. Southgate went to Qatar targeting a first tournament victory since 1966 and said after the team’s exit: “The energy that it takes through these tournaments is enormous. I want to make the right decision, whenever that is, for the team, for England, for the FA.”
Southgate said in June he would not outstay his welcome and reflected after the defeat by France that he was “conflicted” about whether to continue in light of the various lows of the past 18 months.
The nadir came with June’s 4-0 home defeat by Hungary at Wolves, which drew an angry reaction towards Southgate from the crowd. There remains an element of the fanbase that would like Southgate to leave and he mentioned the Molineux response when saying after the France game: “I’ve found large parts of the last 18 months difficult.”
When Southgate extended his contract in November of last year, he talked of the depth of playing talent at his disposal, how he had “done a lot of the work culturally” to turn them into contenders and his desire to bring it to fruition. “To step away at a moment where we still think the next few years can be very exciting … that would have been difficult to live with,” he said.
After a week of soul-searching he has come back around to the wisdom of those words.