England boss Gareth Southgate will be backed by FA despite ‘stumbling’ ahead of World Cup | Football | Sport
FA chairman Debbie Hewitt admits England ‘stumbled’ over the summer but still gives her full backing to Gareth Southgate as the man to lead the country to the World Cup. A miserable UEFA Nations League campaign left the Three Lions bottom of Group A3 after their final 4-0 drubbing by Hungary saw them suffer their worst home defeat since 1928.
Southgate had already spoken ominously about “not out-staying his welcome” and was barracked by the Molineux crowd with cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ and ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’. Hewitt, though, former head of the RAC and the Restaurant Group among other senior positions in Europe’s insurance and banking sectors, feels Southgate has the qualities to lead any company in the world.
“It’s an interesting dynamic and clearly part of football,” she said. “My personal opinion on Gareth is that he is the most successful England manager we’ve had for 55 years.
“He’s taken us to a World Cup semi-final and a Euros final, the bit people don’t see as much is the Gareth at camp and the culture he’s created. Certainly prior to Gareth being the manager of England there was not the pride of wearing the England shirt.
“There were the club rivalries we’d read about, the players not getting on. He’s changed that beyond recognition and I’ve seen that first hand.
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“I’d also say, I don’t just work in football I work in business and I’ve worked with a lot of chief executives and Gareth’s skills — his high IQ and high EQ — would make him a chief exec in any sphere. He takes the accountability, there’s no slopey shoulders, he doesn’t huff, he’s resilient and that’s what you want in an England manager.”
As well as offering this public support, Hewitt has already taken it upon herself to speak to Southgate personally and offer him reassurance.
“Gareth’s reaction, as in everything with that sort of conversation, was that it is his accountability, there’s always something to learn,” she added. “That’s why it’s refreshing working with somebody like that because that openness to learn is quite remarkable and quite unusual in any sphere.”
Last November, Southgate was given a new contract to manage England until 2024, with some wondering why a long-term deal was being laid down before such a major tournament as the Qatar World Cup.
“The fact that there’s been a stumble does not make us automatically say, ‘Should we have given him a contract?”,” Hewitt said.
“It is a red herring. We have confidence in Gareth for all the reasons I described and I think that’s the important thing, and it’s particularly important going into the biggest tournament.”
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