Gareth Southgate has quickly established the England national football team as strong contenders to win the FIFA World Cup in Russia this month. After a successful qualifying campaign, The Three Lions finished in second place of Group G behind Belgium to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.
A dramatic victory over Colombia in the pre-quarters now means that Southgate’s men will face Sweden in the Quarter-finals scheduled to take place tomorrow at the Samara Arena. Despite only leading the team out for his first major tournament as a manager, Southgate has caught the eye of the world with his antics at the touch-line.
In this segment, we profile a number of things that you really ought to know about the England manager who is now expected to bring football home after 52 long years. Without further delay, let’s delve right into the same:
#1 Southgate nearly didn’t go into football
Gareth Southgate grew up in Crawley, Sussex and as a young boy he was considered to be a “very promising sportsman” by his former deputy head Gordon Parry. According to him, the England manager was one of the very few students who were capable of combining an effective academic life without compromising on sports and athletics.
Apart from football, Southgate was a part of the school rugby team, a triple jump county champion and also excelled in academics with a number of GCSE’s (a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school students aged 14–16, at a level below A-level in the UK) to his name.
As stated by his colleagues, the England manager could have even gone on to get his respective A levels too but Southgate finally decided to shift loyalties to football despite having a number of options to choose from in the end.
#2 His first manager told him he’ll be better off as a travel agent
Gareth Southgate joined Crystal Palace at the age of 16 as a member of the youth team under the then manager Alan Smith, who was in charge of the youth setup back then. Looking back at those days, Smith recalls how after losing a match against a British Army XI he spotted Southgate shaking hands with the opposition and thanking them politely.
The manager called him in and said, “Gareth look, if I was you I’d become a travel agent because I don’t think football’s going to be for you, if you go on like this.” After the incident, the player decided to man-up like his gaffer wanted and he was apparently able to “pick himself up and realise what being a professional footballer was about.”
#3 Southgate was eager to take the leap and could play a variety of roles
Simon Osborn recalls his former teammate Gareth Southgate as a young man eager to make a mark on English football and always prepared to take the big leap that could possibly land him in the higher echelons of world football. During his time with Crystal Palace, Southgate was keen to make the most of his opportunities and volunteered to slot in anywhere on the pitch.
He played at a number of positions including right back, centre back, left back, or in midfield during his time with the youth team at Crystal Palace and was always eager to help the team out whenever required. However, Osborn believed that his role as a utility player was one of his biggest problems and believed that he would be the perfect fit at centre-half.
Southgate later proved his teammate right after he nailed down a centre-half position at Aston Villa and slowly but steadily made a name for himself.
#4 He rejected the England job at first
After spending three years at the helm as manager of the England U-21 side from 2013 to 2016, Gareth Southgate was offered the caretaker manager role with the England senior football team after Sam Allardyce had resigned after just a single game in charge due to the English football scandal.
Southgate turned down the offer at first but was put in temporary charge of the national team before being appointed as manager of the England national football team on a four-year contract shortly thereafter. According to his former manager and mentor Alan Smith, Southgate turned down the offer because he was holding out for a more substantial offer from the FA.
“I don’t think he was convinced, the way that the job was being put to him… on a short-term contract, on a salary that wasn’t conducive with being the England manager.” Smith commented, “Gareth knows his worth. He’s no fool.”
#5 Southgate was nicknamed “Nord”
During his time with Crystal Palace as a youngster, Gareth Southgate was nicknamed “Nord” by his teammates at the club. The England manager was a unique character during his younger days and according to Guardian football correspondent, Louise Taylor, the name was coined due to the precise manner in which he spoke or addressed others and his pair of grey Hush Puppies that reminded everyone of TV presenter Denis Norden.
We’re not quite sure if Gareth still remembers that but his former teammates surely do!