London - When Sam Allardyce fell victim to yet another sting operation by the English media, the Football Association had little hesitation in naming Gareth Southgate as interim manager of the Three Lions.
The former defender, who had a successful career with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, and played more than 50 games for the national team, had spent three successful years in charge of England’s Under-21 side.
He led them to the finals of the 2015 European Under-21 championships, where they managed to beat the eventual champions, Sweden, but went out in the group stage.
His first match in charge of the senior side saw him coach the team to a disappointing 2-0 victory against Malta, followed by a similarly disappointing goalless draw in Slovenia.
His third game in charge, a World Cup qualifier against Scotland, brought a 3-0 victory and although the team’s performance was certainly not as impressive as the result indicated, the media started calling for him to be appointed on a permanent basis.
In the middle of last month, shortly before the Football Association was to decide on a permanent coach, Spain travelled to England to take on the Three Lions at Wembley Stadium in what was to be Southgate’s final match as temporary coach.
Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy gave the home side a 2-0 lead, and even though La Roja managed to equalise with two late goals, Southgate had done enough to convince the Football Association that he was the right man for the job.
The Football Association started negotiating with the former international before the matches against Scotland and Spain, and presumably the results cost them an extra £500 000 (R8.8 million) a year as they put Southgate into a much stronger negotiating position.
Southgate, who after Roy Hodgson’s resignation was considered the favourite to take over, but said he was not ready, was given the job a few days ago.
He reportedly signed a four-year contract worth £2 million a year, a considerable improvement on the two-year £1.5 million contract the Football Association originally wanted to offer him.
Sticking with the tried and tested
One of the first decisions that Southgate made was to retain Wayne Rooney as captain – one that he felt he needed to explain to the media as the Manchester United striker has not been having a great season.
“Wayne is England captain,” Southgate said.
“I said that at the beginning of the interim period, but what’s also clear is that I’ve only selected him to start in two of the four matches we’ve had. Obviously, it’s not the case that Wayne expects to play every game.
“It’s important for me to develop more leaders in that group. If we’re going to be successful, we need to develop leadership and develop resilience, and that’s one of the key areas.
“Wayne has played an important part for England up to this point, and I’m sure he can do that in the future, but we also have to develop others.”
Southgate said he wanted to continue working with his technical staff, including assistant Steve Holland, who is juggling two positions between the Football Association and Chelsea.
The new England manager wants Holland to work full time, but, given Chelsea’s great start to the season, they might not be willing to let him go.
“I think everyone knows how important Steve has been for me in terms of the work we’ve done in the past few years [at Under-21 level] and in the past few weeks. There’s no secret in that,” Southgate said.
The 46-year-old also confirmed that there was no break clause in his contract.
“No, there’s no break clause. I’m taking over at a point where the last two tournaments haven’t been as successful as we’d like.
“There’s big potential in the squad, but a lot of hard work ahead. We’ve got a group of players I think are going to develop a lot and it’s important to look not just at short-term results.”
England fans welcomed the appointment, but whether they are willing to overlook bad short-term results remains to be seen and it could well be that the new manager finds himself under pressure from the word go.