Following England’s World Cup exit, the inevitable question of whether Gareth Southgate is really the man who can bring football home has quickly reared its head.
In truth, the Three Lions were painfully close to overcoming France, with many optimistic they would do just that, however, they ultimately fell short owing to a Harry Kane missed penalty and a couple of moments of quality from Les Blues.
Quickly, fans expressed their distaste at Southgate and co’s efforts this winter, as for a tournament filled with hope, and in many fans’ view was a real shot at glory, regardless of the opponent, a quarter-final exit fell short of expectations.
Having avoided any rash, emotion-fuelled, spur-of-the-moment decisions, at this point Southgate remains England’s head coach. Yet, questions over his future remain prevalent amongst fans, but here’s why England may want to trust the process.
Since his appointment in 2016, at major tournaments, Southgate has led the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final and a Euro’s final; impressive feats for any international coach.
Granted, both occasions ended in disappointment; first losing to an underdog Croatian side before tasting defeat via a penalty shootout to Italy last summer.
However, add to this Qatar’s quarter-final and compared to previous managers, Southgate boasts a favourable record in terms of tournament progression and moreover looks to be exhibiting signs similar to that of previous, recent World Cup winners.
Consider France’s journey under Didier Deschamps.
Since his appointment in 2012, the Frenchman first took his nation to a World Cup quarter-final losing to eventual champions Germany in Brazil in 2014; bettering this in Euro 2016 as France reached the final only to lose out on their home turf against Portugal.
Two years on, the 2018 World Cup finally brought about the international glory France had been striving towards, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final as they were crowned world champions, now being just a game away from retaining their title.
France could have sacked Deschamps in 2014, perhaps should have sacked him in 2016, but instead, they stuck with him, invested in the project he was building and have reaped the rewards in recent years.
Still not convinced? Now, look at Germany, the previous World Cup holders before France.
Under Joachim Low, Germany reached the Euro 2008 final, finished third at the 2010 World Cup, reached the semi-final of Euro 2012, and finally tasted silverware in 2014 becoming the World Champions in Brazil.
Like France, Germany could well have lost faith in Low, but chose to remain patient with their countryman as he built a long-term project using the same core group of players featuring from tournament to tournament.
Now, with a semi-final, final, and quarter-final finish to his name, Southgate looks to be on a similar trajectory to that of Deschamps and Low, so England must see past Qatar’s perceived disappointment and focus on the project he is assembling.
Bellingham is 19; Rice 23, Foden 22, and Saka 21, yet these are the names Southgate has given minutes to this tournament.
Add to that Fikakyo Tomori, Mason Mount, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Aaron Ramsdale, and Connor Gallagher; all under 25 and besides Tomori, in the current squad, and Southgate has the core of a team for the next two, even three major tournaments.
There’s no question of it, under Southgate, England are walking the same path seen by France and Germany in years gone by, with the only question remaining being whether they can take the final, all-important step.
Only time will tell if the FA show faith in Southgate he arguably deserves, and whether he can be the man to bring football home for the first time in almost 60 years.