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Mentor Alan Smith expects Gareth Southgate to swiftly switch focus to World Cup

Italy v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Final – Wembley Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

It will not be long before “workaholic” Gareth Southgate is back planning meticulously for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, according to his former manager Alan Smith.

Smith first coached the England national team boss as a 16-year-old in the Crystal Palace academy before he made him first-team captain at Selhurst Park.

The pair also worked together in Southgate’s first managerial role at Middlesbrough and his mentor was in attendance at Wembley on Sunday to watch the Three Lions lose on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

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Speaking a day later in a post-tournament press conference, the England chief admitted he needed a break, but Smith expects it will not be long before the 50-year-old is back at St George’s Park.

“He has a workaholic mentality and is 365 days of the year,” Smith told the PA news agency.

“I think the first thing he has got to do is have a break. He will have to really recharge and get his thinking back in order.

“And it will be the same for his staff too, Steve Holland and Chris Powell.

“But he is into work every day and takes an interest in everything that is going on at St George’s Park, not just the first team, so there is always quite a lot for him to do.”

Once Southgate has returned from a much-needed rest, his attention will switch to the next challenge in Qatar in 18 months time and trying to go one better.

After reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and finishing runners-up at this summer’s European Championship, the former England defender has shown he knows what it takes to get results at a major tournament.

Smith, who worked with Southgate for nine years at Palace, believes his experiences away with the Three Lions have helped the former centre-back work out a formula to earn success and bring a club football feel to the group.

He added: “The planning for this competition was meticulous and took about two years. Finding out what players will be there, trying to work out how to occupy the players’ time and Gareth has a big advantage.

Crystal Palace Alan Smith

Alan Smith managed Gareth Southgate at Crystal Palace (Tom Hevezi/PA)

“Once you have played 57 times for England and under four different managers, you certainly have a feel for what is required at a tournament.

“You learn a lot about what players are like when they are away at these tournaments. Young boys need to be occupied for a month and that is a hard job, to find what they are going to do when they are not playing. But his planning was clinical and meticulous.

“He knows inside out what these players can do and how they act, so I think that is what has made this look more of a club team than an England team.”

While it was once again penalty shoot-out disappointment at a Euro’s for Southgate, Smith remains proud of his former player – just as he was when the Eagles academy graduate captained Palace to the First Division title in 1994 and after his failed spot-kick at Wembley against Germany 25 years ago.

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And even though the England boss has been used to living in a bio-secure bubble over the last month, Smith knows his friend will always remain in touch with the public.

“He got the mood of the country right. He knew what we had been through with Covid-19 and understood – because he lives in the real world – what it meant to the nation to do well and I think the players realised that as well,” the former Palace boss insisted.

“I have never known Gareth to live in a bubble. When he was our captain at Palace, he would go into the Croydon Advertiser and South London Press every so often and he was good with the fans, he related to what it meant to the club.

“He was always good at relating to the fans and understood them. He does now and will continue to do so.”