Gareth Southgate: The ex-Middlesbrough manager inspiring a nation as England reach Euro 2020 final
"When something goes wrong in your life it doesn’t finish you and you should become braver, knowing that you’ve got to go for things in life and don’t regret because you didn’t try to be as good as you might be.” Following England’s penalty shootout win over Colombia in 2018, Gareth Southgate reflected on the nadir of his football career.
Before he was appointed England manager in November 2016, Southgate was remembered for that penalty miss at Euro 1996 in a semi-final against Germany. A moment that still stings.
Even at Middlesbrough, where Southgate captained the club to their first major trophy by lifting the 2004 Carling Cup and is remembered fondly, his spell on Teesside ended following relegation from the Premier League in his first managerial role.
Those deflating experiences still live with the England boss, yet this is a man who draws motivation from those public setbacks.
Once labelled an ‘FA yes man’ who was ‘too nice’ for the national job, Southgate’s passion and resolve was clear to see as England reached the final of their first major tournament since 1966 by beating Denmark in the semi-final of Euro 2020.
"The most pleasing thing is that we've given our fans and our nation another amazing night, and the journey carries on for another four days,” said Southgate after a memorable night at Wembley.
No matter the result, Southgate remains humble, compassionate and respectful. His man management skills while in charge of the national team have been exceptional too.
To get 26 elite footballers , with an abundance of attacking talent, all pulling in the same direction is no easy feat. Yet we repeatedly hear about the positive environment in the camp and see players joking with each other like a group of mates – even those who are out of the side.
Throughout the tournament, there has been a public clamour for certain players, formations and tactics, yet the England boss has stuck to what he believes is best.
As a reporter I’ve not had the chance to interview Southgate, yet people at Middlesbrough have nothing but positives to say about him.
The only time I have met Southgate was as an 11-year-old fan on Darlington Train Station when Boro were travelling to face Tottenham during his managerial spell.
Even then, there was an open environment within the squad as I mixed with players and asked for autographs. Southgate asked where we were going and was genuinely interested.
The England boss has since admitted he wasn’t prepared for the quick transition from playing into management.
“It’s hard to explain just how big a jump it was," said Southgate before England’s friendly matches at Boro’s Riverside Stadium last month.
“I suppose comparing what I knew then to what I know now, it’s a bit like when I was a 16-year-old apprentice compared to when I was a 30-year-old international.
“You’re starting a completely new career. Inevitably, every situation you’re in you’re learning something new."
Those learning experiences mark some of the toughest moments in Southgate’s career, but have laid the foundations for his latest triumph.