England made history by winning their first-ever penalty shootout at a World Cup on Tuesday night, beating Colombia on penalties in the last-16 of the competition. The win set up a quarter-final clash with Sweden on Saturday night.
The man that deserves significant credit for the Three Lions performances in recent months is England boss Gareth Southgate.
When England appointed Southgate as the national team boss in 2016 as a replacement for Sam Allardyce, it was fair to say he was not a popular appointment. In fact, it was hard to find many England fans that were happy with his appointment. However, the 47-year-old has changed people’s perceptions of him and his team in the last year or so.
Southgate is a good guy
Gareth Southgate always came across as a nice and polite guy during his playing days. He is respectful and has dignity, despite some of the slurs he had to endure during his playing and coaching career.
The former-Middlesbrough does lead with calm confidence and is a fantastic role model when it comes to behaviour. In his press conferences, he is honest and never seems to evade a question, unlike many England bosses of the recent past.
A good coach
I have to admit, when England appointed Southgate as boss, I had my reservations about the decision. He never really showed anything special during his short coaching career in club football.
His managerial career in club football was mediocre. However, in the last year, Southgate seems to have adopted a brave new outlook and philosophy. Whether he has always had the same philosophy, and not had the quality of player to pull it off is unclear.
However, he is showing with England that he is a good coach and has some bright ideas. Southgate has a distinct vision of how he wants to play, although he is prepared to be bold when needed and is quite flexible in his tactical approach.
His courage to bring inexperienced players into the squad deserves praise too. Many bosses shy away from doing so and settle on the older players for a comfortable life. Unfortunately, this was England’s problem for a long time.
Players would be picked because of who they were or their profile. Southgate has introduced new thinking. The England boss choses the players that fit into his system, which so far is proving successful for him so far.
Southgate deserves praise whatever happens in Russia
The way Gareth Southgate has handled the England team deserves immense credit. He has done his best to dampen expectations and has been realistic throughout the tournament run up and the competition itself.
The 47-year-old has also managed to create a club atmosphere inside the England camp. The players enjoy playing with each other. They are no longer paralysed by fear of wearing the Three Lions on the shirt.
In the past, there seemed to have been separate groups of players from certain clubs who do everything together while with England. However, judging by the videos on social media, all the players seem to mix and mingle, which has created a superb team spirit.
Even if England exits the competition against Sweden, Gareth Southgate will receive credit, as he seems to have changed the mood around the England camp. This revival of hope has been a long time coming and will hopefully lead to a brighter international future for the Three Lions.
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