The England coach has just guided the nation to their first men’s major tournament final in 55 years – England face Italy on Sunday – but there has been no theatricality on the 50-year-old’s sideline.
He looked calm, breathed a sigh of relief and quickly complained to the Denmark coach. He then turned and greeted his team’s backstage embrace before applauding Wembley Stadium fans for their loud and passionate support.
The moment has summed up everything you need to know about Southgate.
He may have what has often been described as “work impossible,” but his tenure made it all possible.
Southgate’s management style is light. It’s never about him; it is always about the others.
His attitude and approach to leadership was praised both inside and outside the football world at Euro 2020 and is undoubtedly an important factor in the success of this team.
Former England international Gary Neville pointedly compared Southgate’s leadership skills to those of the British political class.
“The level of leadership in this country over the past two years has been poor, but looking at this man over there, that’s all a leader should be,” Neville said as Southgate celebrated the victory in semi-final at Wembley, a match watched on British television by nearly 26 million viewers in the UK.
“Respectful, humble, truth be told, genuine, he’s fantastic Gareth Southgate. He’s really amazing and did a great job,” Neville added.
When Southgate took the national post in 2016, he was far from a popular choice. He was in charge of the England Under-21 squad, but has been appointed temporarily in charge of the senior squad following the resignation of Sam Allardyce.
At the time, it seemed like an uninspired choice – a stopgap as the England Football Association found someone more experienced, more glamorous, to fill the full-time position.
The humble Southgate course
Before moving to the national configuration, Southgate had only ruled Middlesbrough for three years and his reputation in the country was far from glowing.
While Southgate was manager of Middlesbrough, the club were relegated from the Premier League in 2009 and in October of the same year he was sacked. He spent four years in the wild before taking over the England Under-21 team in 2013.
Southgate was still remembered by many England fans as the man who missed the decisive penalty against Germany at Euro 1996. The defender has been ridiculed for years and, so far, has struggled to keep up. get rid of this association.
“For the teammates who played with me, I can’t change that so it’s always going to hurt. But the good thing is we gave people another day to remember,” Southgate said after looking guided England to victory over the international enemy German in the round of 16.
After winning their first game as interim boss, England responded well to Southgate and their stock began to grow.
In November 2016, he got the job permanently and started working on his long-standing plan to give the national team a new identity.
A lot of effort went into getting every age group in the national setup to play the same, which made the transition to the first team easier.
It paid off in 2018, when an unpretentious England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. The fairytale journey started to convert even the most ardent critics and now, having reached the Euro 2020 final, few people doubt Southgate’s relevance any more.
“I have massively questioned his pedigree to run a country,” an England fan told CNN ahead of England’s game against Denmark on Wednesday.
“I think Gareth’s rise through the ranks has allowed him to learn every step of the way and to identify with the players.
“He just seems to have this mindset of learning from success and putting it into our system. As an opponent before, I’m now the biggest fan. He’s just awesome.”
Southgate has also managed to change the often hostile dynamic that has existed between the England team and the British media.
When England left Euro 1992 after being beaten by Sweden, former England coach Graham Taylor was caricatured as a turnip in The Sun newspaper, alongside a headline that read “Sweden 2 turnips 1” .
Every step of the way, Southgate encouraged the team to speak out on and off the pitch and offered unwavering support to players like Raheem Sterling who have spoken out on social issues.
Ahead of Euro 2020, Southgate also wrote an open letter – titled ‘Dear England’ – to fans about racism in the country and fully supported the team’s decision to kneel down before every game in this tournament.
The letter was released after his team were booed by a minority of fans for kneeling – to fight racism – during warm-up matches before the tournament.
“It’s their [the players] duty to continue to interact with the public on issues such as equality, inclusiveness and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate ”, said added Southgate.
Southgate and its players have made no apologies for using the gesture ahead of the kick-off of Euro 2020, despite criticism from some UK lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party.
“I never thought we had to stick to football,” Southgate continued in her letter.
“It is their duty to continue to interact with the public on issues such as equality, inclusiveness and racial injustice, while using the power of their voice to help put the debates on the table, raise awareness and educate. “
“Nice guy” with a ruthless streak
While Southgate has relied on star players like captain Harry Kane and Sterling to send his team back to Sunday’s final, he has always made a point of valuing every member of the team, even those who don’t. have not yet participated in the tournament.
Most managers after a win would focus on scorers and team success, but not Southgate.
“I think of the guys we haven’t had on the pitch – Conor Coady, Ben Chilwell, Sam Johnstone, Aaron Ramsdale, they are the ones who make this team so successful,” Southgate told the BBC after beating the ‘Ukraine in the quarter-finals last week.
“The spirit in the squad is phenomenal. Whoever comes in does the job, whoever isn’t there – it’s really hard to leave three on the day’s shift – the mentality of the ‘The team is fantastic. That’s the most important thing on my mind, looking after these guys. ”
Southgate has proven that you can be a ‘nice guy’ while still being successful in a cutthroat industry, but don’t confuse his personal approach with gentleness.
When the time is right, Southgate has demonstrated his ability to be ruthless and puts nothing above the success of the team.
He notably dropped his squad’s Trent Alexander-Arnold earlier in the season when his club form fell, although the Liverpool defender was later recalled, before injuring himself and excluding him from Euro 2020. .
This is why the Southgate side are now on the verge of making history, with only Italy preventing them from winning a first major tournament since the World Cup in 1966.
Like Southgate, Italian coach Roberto Mancini has also been applauded for his way of reinventing the Azzurri.
The 56-year-old, who got a lot of attention for his neat – yes Armani – dress at this year’s tournament, took the helm six months after Italy failed to advance to the final World Cup 2018, but has since overseen a 33-game unbeaten streak, scoring 86 goals and conceding just 10.
Mancini’s side produced fascinating performances at Euro 2020 with their attacking football jumper style, allied to the foundations of traditional Italian defense.
“Believing in your work, having a vision, having a perspective can actually take you beyond your borders and your limits,” Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri told CNN’s World Sport after Italy beat the Belgium in the quarter-finals.
“When Roberto Mancini took the job on the Italian bench three years ago, he was perhaps the only one who believed such a thing was possible.
“There weren’t any young players in particular that would set them apart, there weren’t any tactical plans that weren’t considered. Maybe at that point Roberto Mancini believed, and we , the Italians, hoped this could be true. ”