Gareth Southgate got the England job by accident. Taking over after Big Sam Allardyce’s reign came to an untimely end after just one game, former England Under 21 boss Southgate looked like the traditional FA blazers’ safe bet. A man who wouldn’t upset anyone, would look smart and be on the back pages not the front ones.
With his trademark waistcoat, finely trimmed fashionable beard and a willingness to share credit rather than look to monopolise it, the former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough man fitted the image. Had England stumbled through the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and then lost gallantly once the knock-out stuff began, Southgate would have simply been another page in the list of England failures, ready to be replaced by a high profile manager of world renown as the FA looked for yet another blue-print for future success.
Instead Southgate showed the leadership to bravely cast aside the old guard represented by Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney. Fittingly for a man who had worked successfully with the nation’s brightest young players at Under 21 level he pulled together not just a team of three lions but young lions ready to roar. Suddenly England were a team of pace, panache and could even win penalty shoot-outs. People like Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier stepped up to join the immense Harry Kane on the world stage, a stage Southgate had made England headline makers on.
This tale traces how Southgate went from zero to hero, from the days when he was a youngster at Crystal Palace to the days when surely Buckingham Palace will be giving him a call as the toast of the nation joins Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson as England’s most successful manager.