By Dominic King for the Daily Mail
Published: 20:25 GMT, 17 November 2019 | Updated: 20:25 GMT, 17 November 2019
The most challenging week in three years is over so you may think that will allow Gareth Southgate a moment to have a sigh of relief.
Life is rarely simple for England’s head coach and the narrative of his past three months has been filled with issues such as racism, the unruly behaviour of travelling fans and an stupid error of judgement from an inexperienced squad member.
That was all before the last seven days, which were ruined by the remarkable loss of control from his most high-profile player in a private dining area at St George’s Park.
It has been a challenging week for Gareth Southgate but there is still much work for him to do
The incident involving Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez made matters difficult for Southgate
They were pockmarked further by the Wembley crowd senselessly booing a young professional he greatly admires.
Now the games against Montenegro and Kosovo are over, you might expect Southgate to take a moment to reset but, when you hold the particular office he does, things don’t work that way: every second counts, every decision matters. The clock is now ticking.
England’s first game of Euro 2020 is 210 days away. It may seem miles off but when you boil it down, it is no time at all. England only have four as yet to be arranged friendlies before that big date on June 14 and we are still no nearer to knowing the identity of their best team.
Southgate has made a host of alterations but he must now settle on his best starting XI
This fixture in Kosovo was England’s 10th game of 2019; five alterations to the line-up that swatted Montenegro aside at Wembley last Thursday reinforced the notion that Southgate is a modern day tinkerman – his combined total of changes for the calendar year ended on 43.
It is a remarkable figure yet you can be certain that the first half of 2020 will follow a similar pattern. How can it not? Put it this way, if the European Championships started next weekend, who would be in your starting line-up?