Gareth Southgate admits he is “conflicted” over whether to continue as England manager, and will not rush into any decision that could be a “mistake”, following his side’s World Cup quarter-final exit against France.
The 52-year-old said he has found “large parts of the last 18 months difficult”, particularly noting criticism and the boos at Molineux during the 4-0 defeat by Hungary in June. While Southgate said he has loved most of the last few weeks in Qatar, and doesn’t have any regrets given the nature of the performance against France, he revealed he still hasn’t gotten over the Euro 2020 final loss to Italy and wants to be certain that he has the “energy” for another campaign.
The England manager said he wouldn’t make any decision in the immediate future as he wants to do so with a clear head and not regret it either way, at which point he will sit down with the Football Association (FA) and talk it through.
“I’ve found large parts of the last 18 months difficult,” Southgate admitted. “For everything that I’ve loved about the last few weeks, I still have… those 18 months, what’s been said and what’s been written, the night at Wolves, there are lots of things in my head that are really conflicted at the moment. So, what I want to make sure, if it’s the right thing to say, is that I’ve definitely got the energy to do that. I don’t want to be four or five months down the line thinking I’ve made the wrong call. It’s important for everybody to get that right.
“When I’ve been through the past few tournaments, my emotions have been difficult to really think through properly in those following few weeks. It took so much energy out of you and you have so much going through your mind. I want to make the right decision either way because it has to be the right one to go again, or the right one not to go again – and I don’t think tonight is the time to make a decision like that. Neither are the next few days, really.
“After every tournament I’ve sat with everybody at the FA and talked things through logically, and I think that’s the right process to go through again.”
When asked how long tournaments stay in a manager’s system, Southgate admitted he is still pained about the Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy.
“I don’t think I have got over the last one, but this feels a little bit different because, when we reflect on what we’ve done, I’m not sure what more we could have done or given. I think we’ve given a really good performance against a top team, which I think was a significant psychological step for those players.”
Southgate did speak optimistically about a bright future that he might not be around for.
“I think we’ve shown a good side of ourselves. The players have been fantastic in their commitment, application and quality of their play. They’ve answered so many questions individually and collectively. But we were here to win and in the end we’re leaving on a night when I don’t think we could have done any more. But there were fine margins at both ends of the pitch and the goals we’ve conceded, the chances we needed to convert, have been decisive.
“There are some young players in there, especially, where the step we have to make is to have that belief and that confidence in those big games. I have been involved in nights where we have played top teams and been on the back foot for the majority of the game and [been] dominated. I know France are a bit more counter-attacking so it is a little bit different from a possession team who can pin you back. We wanted to be bold in the tournament and I think we went toe-to-toe with them and yeah, the players should be really proud of what they have done.
“When you look back on the team in 2018 you can see, I think we got a tremendous amount out of what we had and we felt it was a particular way to go to do that. The emergence of some different players through the Euros and through this tournament meant we have been able to approach it differently and we have said we want to be competitive all the way through with England. And we are, I believe, in that top table where the last three tournaments we have restored credibility. The rest of the world look at us as a good side, but we are here to win and we haven’t won.”
Asked whether he would watch the rest of the World Cup, Southgate said: “I don’t think so. I don’t really know. I am interested to see how it goes, but I don’t know.”
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