Heartbreak has almost become synonymous with England over the years; it feels inevitable, like football’s version of the Grim reaper hanging over you, singlehandedly producing a road block so that it becomes impossible for it to come home. But Gareth Southgate’s England side are driving straight through that road block onto the right side of history. Dare even try to stop them and they’ll show fight and hunger worthy of overcoming the impossible.
This time, the song ‘Three Lions’ has not been cut short; it has not become the anthem of the last four; we are not just belting it out like our lives depend on it for irony. We are being deadly serious when we say, when we sing, it’s coming home. And why not? Why not believe in this side? You’d be a fool not to believe in a squad of players so unified in pulling towards one goal.
Gareth Southgate’s England Squad: Closer Than Ever to History
Southgate Sets the Tone of Winners
Perhaps the most important yet most obvious line is about mentality. In order to win, you have to have that winning mentality. That willingness to go the extra mile, push even further, work even harder but stay cool and composed whilst the chaos ensues around you. And that sums up Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
Whilst fans are doing their best Neil Diamond impression every day and night, those representing the nation are floating around on inflatable Unicorns and playing water polo. Whilst beers are busy becoming the new rain in the streets of England, Southgate and the players are preparing the classic, ‘we’ll take one game at a time’ answers, keeping their feet firmly fixed on the ground. They know their ability more than anyone, but they won’t show that; they’ll keep their cards close to their chest before revealing the ace up their sleeve.
That composure comes from the manager himself, too. Southgate has found a way to ground the players who will be in dreamland right now. He has guided the player into laser focus; focus that helps overcome any obstacle, using different versions of themselves to do so.
People often criticise Southgate’s boring persona, but that lack of ego is crucial, it rids of any potential clashes. In previous years, other generations never had the connection with managers that the current group so clearly have with Southgate, who seems like a father figure at times. Whether it was Fabio Capello or dare we cast our minds back to Steve McLaren and Roy Hodgson, not many managers could tame the ego or create a connection with the players such as Southgate has done.
England Squad More Likeable Than Ever
There’s something about this England squad that will always bring a smile to your face. They lack the bitter rivalry and division of previous squads. Instead, they are unified in striving for one goal. Previous generations entered the England camp grasping onto their club ways. A Liverpool player wouldn’t dare sit at the Manchester United table and vice versa.
This generation are part of one big table, however. Club badges have been handed in at the door, swapped for an England badge. Everyone is the same, everyone is there to be an England player. They are not there to be a representative of their club like previous players seemed to be. And that togetherness is not down to the introduction of water balloons and inflatables, though they’ve surely played a part, it is instead down to Gareth Southgate and the players themselves.
They are leading the way on the pitch, that’s a certainty, but this group of players have become leaders against bigger issues in the world. They have used their platform to make a difference. Their job title may be footballer but that doesn’t and shouldn’t limit them. And that makes them much more relatable, likeable and easier to get behind, no matter the club they play for.
We have Marcus Rashford singlehandedly taking the fight to the government to tackle child poverty and hunger. Jordan Henderson was one of the leading captains in the players together initiative to raise crucial funds for the NHS. Both have since been awarded an MBE alongside Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Even in the face of adversity; against their own ‘fans’ at times, England continued to take the knee, to unite in the fight against racial discrimination.
So if England do win and it does finally come home, it will be a deserved moment in the sun or poorly timed Wembley rain. If any England side deserve to re-write the history books, it is Gareth Southgate’s.
Embed from Getty Images