Gareth Southgate may be the most popular custodian of the population of England’s hopes and dreams manager since Sir Bobby Robson.
The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender became the first man ever to reach 50 caps as a player and a manager for England when they beat San Marino 5-0 in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers – a milestone so significant that it warrants a look back at his greatest moments as a manager.
What are Southgate’s highlights as England boss then? Lets take a deep dive into his so far six-year reign as gaffer…
The standout moment from Southgate’s playing career for the Three Lions was, regrettably, his miss in the Euro 96 penalty shootout defeat to Germany that saw England crash out in the semi-finals. Well, that and the subsequent Pizza Hut advert.
However, Southgate’s redemption arc was completed at the World Cup in 2018 when England met Colombia in the last 16.
Despite Jordan Henderson’s miss, England beat Colombia 4-3 to progress to the quarters in Russia, and break a decades-long curse from 12 yards.
No-one will have been more relieved than the man on the touchline.
Speaking of Russia, the biggest moment of Southgate managerial career so far was undoubtedly the FIFA World Cup run in 2018.
England went into the tournament with little to no expectations, but they managed to progress through the groups after winning two of their three games.
They then beat Colombia and Sweden in the knockout rounds to set up a semi-final with Croatia.
While they were beaten in extra-time, it was a run that seemed to unite the entire country in times of severe division, while a feel-good factor was restored to the England camp.
Looking back on when we first met,
I cannot escape and I cannot forget,
Southgate you’re the one,
You still turn me on,
Football’s coming home again!
It’s rare that an England manager gets his own chant, but Southgate earned his song thanks to the 2018 World Cup run and its effect on the English public.
Belting out rehashed Atomic Kitten lyrics is probably not how many envisioned their summer in 2018 going, but Southgate had the entire country believing.
It took a while, but England finally beat one of the top teams in the world when they toppled the mighty Spain.
It was a “Monday masterclass” in Martin Tyler’s words, as Raheem Sterling scored two and Marcus Rashford slotted home for a 3-0 lead in the first half of a terrific performance back in Seville in October 2018.
Paco Alcacer and Sergio Ramos scored headers in the second half to narrow the lead, but England held on for a memorable victory.
After the disappointment of crashing out of the World Cup in the semi-finals, England sought revenge against Croatia when they met in the UEFA Nations League later that year.
Southgate’s team fell behind, but fought back thanks to goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane to progress into the semi-finals of the inaugural tournament to cap off an impressive year.
One of the hardest moments of Southgate’s managerial tenure undoubtedly came on a trip to Bulgaria back in 2019, when the crowd were heard racially abusing players.
England players Tyrone Mings and Raheem Sterling in particular were subjected to abuse during the 6-0 win, with the game paused on multiple occasions.
After the match, Southgate condemned the actions of the crowd and stood by his players while speaking publicly about how the situation had to change.
He was praised for the way he handled the situation and it became an example of how Southgate has leaned into the role of statesman and leader, as well as coach.
England’s record against Belgium in recent times is rubbish, to put it simply.
They even lost twice to the Red Devils at the 2018 World Cup.
The sides faced off once more in the UEFA Nations League in 2020, where Southgate’s side turned in a stellar performance to finally pick up a win over their new foes.
Mason Mount scored the winner after Romelu Lukaku and Rashford had netted a penalty each in a game that saw the Chelsea man announce himself on the international stage.
During the summer of 2018, Marks & Spencer reported a 35% increase in the sale of waistcoats – a sales increase essentially all down to one man.
Southgate made it cool to wear a three-piece suit again and was setting the fashion agenda for English men… which is not something you could ever imagine Hodgson, Allardyce or even Sven doing.