Gareth Southgate vows to not ‘outstay welcome’ and defends England style | England

Gareth Southgate says he will “not outstay my welcome” as England manager, and has suggested he would leave if he felt the players were not responding to his methods.

There have been calls for Southgate to adopt a more attacking approach, with clamour growing for Jack Grealish’s inclusion as a starter after his influential substitute performance in the draw with Germany. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s status has also come under scrutiny, with Gary Lineker among those to criticise the fact he was not used in Munich. Southgate batted away accusations that he is too conservative butaccepts his role has a shelf life.

“I’ve got to find a balance because I don’t want to sit and be defensive, but some people have managed teams and others haven’t,” he said. “Until you’ve managed teams, you have a different view of the game. What’s needed to win football matches are the sorts of things [Mason] Mount did on [Joshua] Kimmich that allows other things to happen. For the man that comes and stands on the terrace and pays his money, I totally understand he wants to see a Grealish with a Sterling with a Saka. But you’ve got to have a balance of the team, this is top-level football.

“I’ve got to manage in the way I see fit. I won’t outstay my welcome but I think I can do a good job for the team, and I think we’ve done a good job for the team. I think we’ll continue to improve the team, which we have done over a consistent period of time, and we’re also developing young players that will leave England in a good place for a long period to come.”

Quick Guide

England v Italy: probable teams


England (4-3-2-1): Pickford; James, Maguire, Tomori, Trippier; Bellingham, Ward-Prowse, Gallagher; Sterling, Grealish; Abraham.

Subs from: Pope, Ramsdale, Walker, Stones, Guéhi, Coady, Justin, Rice, Phillips, Mount, Foden, Saka, Bowen, Kane.

Italy (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Acerbi, Felipe, Dimacro; Frattesi, Locatelli, Tonali; Pessina, Scamacca, Pellegrini.

Subs from: Cragno, Gollini, Meret, Calabria, Mancini, Gatti, Bastoni, Florenzi, Spinazzola, Scalvini, Esposito, Pobega, Cristante, Barella, Zerbin, Politano, Capari, Cancellieri, Gnonto, Raspadori.

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Southgate made a similar statement in the wake of last summer’s Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy, who England face in the Nations League at Molineux on Saturday, but signed a new contract in November that runs until December 2024. He was not questioned about his future this time but appeared to dangle the issue when asked about his approach.

“That’s how I’ve always felt about it,” he said. “The major part of that is how the players are. Do I still feel the players give everything and respond to what we do? Yes, I do.”

It was put to Southgate that he is regarded in some quarters, fairly or not, as overly pragmatic. “I understand, I hear about conservatism, but we were the highest scorers in Europe last year,” he said, referring to a 39-goal haul in the World Cup qualifiers that came with the caveat of San Marino’s presence in Group I. “So I don’t quite know what more you can do. I’m not saying I don’t buy into it because I understand, in this role, everybody’s going to have a view.

“I am always going to have those situations where people disagree with the selection. That noise over the last two or three years does seem extremely loud and I’ve had to ride that and get on with it through the Euros and the whole of last summer. I can see that’s where it is again. That’s what I have got to deal with.”

There is a perspective from which England risk being victims of their own success given their performances in the past two tournaments have shifted expectations. “The players have that desire and hunger,” Southgate said. “They don’t need to worry about what the expectation is. They feel the urgency, the need; they are desperate to be champions.

“For me, I am totally calm about it. I know what will be expected. I know the consequences if we don’t get there and I’m totally happy about it. I would rather be involved with a team where the expectation is high and we feel we have a chance, like other very good teams out there.”

The crowd in Wolverhampton will be limited to about 3,000 children, along with one accompanying adult for every 10 minors, as part of the stadium ban handed down by Uefa after the trouble at the Euro 2020 final. Those present will see James Ward-Prowse among the starters in what is likely to be a much-changed team.

England will start with a back four, as they did on Tuesday. They had fielded a central defensive three in the defeat by Hungary but Southgate said: “We have a preference to play with a four.”

Phil Foden has returned to training but is still feeling the effects of Covid-19, and Kalvin Phillips has been absent from practice sessions after the injury that ended his night in Munich prematurely. Southgate described him as “doubtful”.

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