10 reasons the whole of England has fallen in love with Gareth Southgate
England are winning
World Cup opening act Robbie 'middle finger' Williams may not be a man of supreme intellect, but the title of his third studio album, Sing When You’re Winning, is a notion that runs true of England so far under Southgate. England are winning, scoring goals aplenty and the fans are singing in the stands and in the streets.
The Three Lions enjoyed an unbeaten qualifying campaign, albeit in an uncompetitive group, and have continued their fine form in Russia, ending the 28-year wait for a place in the last four at a World Cup. It's simple, but a winning feeling that had almost completely gone missing over the past two decades is back courtesy of Southgate and his men.
Southgate’s attire of choice has become the unlikely fashion statement of the summer. Perfectly tailored trousers. Baby blue shirt, pressed to perfection. The tie; striped with red, white and blue. And of course, the waistcoat. So much has the nation enjoyed seeing Gareth dolled up, sales of navy waistcoats at Marks & Spencer have risen by an estimated 35% since the beginning of the tournament.
England is also expected to be taken by storm by ‘Waistcoat Wednesday’ this week after charity Bloodwise launched a campaign urging fans to don one for the game against Croatia, while also making a small donation to help fight blood cancer. Pleasing eyes and saving lives.
Men in fine suits often come with a fat wallet and similar-sized ego as well. Not Gareth, though. Southgate has proven himself to an all-around good guy in Russia. Off the pitch in his media appearances, the former Middlesbrough boss has been the epitome of a gentleman - friendly, funny and down to earth.
On the pitch, his humble nature was summed up perfectly following England’s shootout defeat of Colombia. Southgate quickly walked over to Mateus Uribe, the man who had missed what proved to be the momentum-shifting spot-kick, to console him, among other opposition players. When asked about this in the wake of Colombia’s poor sportsmanship on the day, Southgate played it down by saying: “It’s easy to be magnanimous in victory, isn’t it?”
England’s last five permanent managers, for all their qualities, weren’t the most charismatic bunch. Sven was silent, McClaren was motionless. Capello was cold and Hodgson was hushed. Allardyce, of course, was axed before he became anything at all.
But Southgate? Spirited. Sprightly. Stentorian. It’s refreshing to see an England manager animated on the touchline commanding his players, bellowing orders and roaring with delight when things go plan.
His almighty yell to the England fans following the victory over Colombia was of pure passion, and plucked at the heartstrings of the travelling supporters and viewers at home. Following the Sweden game, he conducted a chorus of fans to the tune of Three Lions. Not since Terry Venables has an England manager connected with the fans the way Southgate has.
Fun and games
While social media may not tell the full story, by the looks of things, the England squad are having fun in Russia (albeit not the kind that Teddy Sheringham, Gazza & co had before Euro '96). From inflatable unicorn races in the pool to Fortnite sessions, from cycling competitions to darts, Southgate’s boys seem to be enjoying their time at their Repino base.
That sense of comradery within the camp has translated to the pitch. For the first time in a long time, England look like they want to be there and will play for one another. All work and no play makes England a very dull (and unsuccessful) national team, as we learned the hard way under Fabio Cappello. Southgate appears to have found the perfect balance between hard work and fun.