Gareth Southgate insists he has made England more entertaining

Gareth Southgate insists he has made England more entertaining and changed their perception throughout Europe… but admits Three Lions fans may not agree with him

  • Gareth Southgate arrived at the FA in 2023 to develop young players technically 
  • A decade on, the England squad is flourishing with talent – but needs a trophy 
  • Why we should get excited about Cole Palmer – Listen here to It’s All Coming Up 

Just over 10 years after he was appointed England’s Under-21 manager, Gareth Southgate is happy to proclaim Mission Accomplished in terms of making the national team more attractive — with the caveat that winning a trophy is yet to be fulfilled.

Southgate arrived at the FA in August 2013 to develop young players, at a time when English football was admired for team spirit and physicality rather than technical ability or firepower.

A decade on and Southgate is England’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey. His squad to face Malta on Friday and North Macedonia next week is packed with attacking stars, from Harry Kane to Jack Grealish and the youthful Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham. Neither Mason Mount nor Raheem Sterling can make the 25-man party. The next generation, led by Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer, is being monitored.

Attacking options in abundance, but while Southgate still receives criticism for not playing positively enough, he insists the perception of English football abroad has changed for the better.

‘That was one of the reasons I joined the FA 10 years ago to work with the Under-21s. We felt we wanted to do that,’ he says.

Gareth Southgate insists he has changed England’s play style – and how they’re seen in Europe

With a spurt of young talent solidifying into consistent England stars, the future looks bright

Jude Bellingham has been a revelation for Real Madrid and could transform England further 

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‘We have achieved that throughout the rest of Europe. We haven’t achieved that so much with our own public at times! But it’s interesting how we are viewed elsewhere.

‘Without a doubt, that’s how we want to play. We were top scorers per game at the World Cup and we’ve been top scorers in qualifying for the two previous tournaments. 

‘We want fans to come to Wembley to see goals and exciting performances and we’ve had some good nights. We’ll keep trying to do that.’

Once reluctant to play with a No 10, fearing it would expose limitations elsewhere, Southgate has played James Maddison, who has withdrawn from this squad due to injury, there of late. Bellingham has also been a revelation in that role with Real Madrid.

‘We’ve certainly got some exciting players in the wide and No 10 areas behind the striker, and different types,’ says the manager.

‘Maddison is different to Jude, with different attributes. It’s good that we’re not replacing like-for-like during games because it means we can give teams different problems.

‘At a club, you can recruit players to fit a model of how you want to play. At international level, you’ve got to get the best out of those you have available.

‘As new players emerge, you are looking at the best way of getting a Bellingham or a Kane into the team, and what the balance of the team is behind that because you can’t just have seven or eight attackers.

Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer lead the ranks of the next generation knocking on the door

Harry Kane won’t have trouble holding onto his starting spot – but deciding his understudy is the headache 

‘Clearly our preference now is to go with a back four because we have got these attacking players. We can play with a 10 or two 8s and that opens itself up to different players within that group.

‘If we are playing with a 10, at the moment Jude and James are at the head of that pile. Both might be key to unlocking a different type of opponent.’

England have qualified for next summer’s Euros and, you can predict most of the squad. As Kane took his tally to 17 in 11 Bundesliga games after scoring twice in Bayern Munich’s 4-2 win over Heidenheim on Saturday, an issue is his understudy at striker.

Ollie Watkins is the man in possession, but Southgate is an admirer of Callum Wilson and has name-checked Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Ivan Toney, who is back from a betting ban in January, could get a late run.


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