For a man who excels in communication, it is appropriate that this story on Gareth Southgate begins with a phone call.
In the summer of 2013, there wasn’t much to feel good about around the Football Association. It had been a bleak period for their development teams and the Under 21s had been embarrassed at the European Championship in Israel. The squad was fractured, the attitude of some poor.
Stuart Pearce paid the price and his contract wasn’t renewed after six years in charge. He had been a great England player; the same was true of David Platt, the Under 21s manager from 2001 to 2004.
Gareth Southgate has brought the feel-good factor back to the English national teamInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Both found past achievements were no source of inspiration to a current generation.
Why would it be different with Southgate, critics asked? They saw a man who had been sacked by Middlesbrough in October 2009, having been manager when they were relegated the previous May. The FA, though, saw beyond those bare facts.
Southgate was appointed after an exhaustive process from a 10-man pool of candidates. Peter Taylor was on that list; Steve McClaren wanted to be considered for the position, as did former Manchester United assistant boss Rene Meulensteen. But one man stood out.
Southgate was interviewed twice at Wembley — once by Sir Trevor Brooking, Dan Ashworth and Adrian Bevington, then again by Alex Horne and former chairman Greg Dyke — and left all convinced of his credentials.
Brooking and Bevington had initially been instrumental in bringing Southgate to the FA, as the head of elite development, and saw his long-term potential.
Southgate was thrilled to get the chance to work with the Under 21s but before he could, he felt compelled to ring Pearce.
Southgate spoke to his former England team-mate Stuart Pearce before he took the U21 job
The pair had a close bond; Pearce once took Southgate to a Sex Pistols concert and, on the infamous tour of Hong Kong in 1996, advised his young mate to avoid going out with the crowd on a night that ended with a number of players drinking in the infamous dentist’s chair.
It wouldn’t have sat right with Southgate had he not discussed the situation with Pearce. Once the call was made, anxieties were assuaged. With his conscience clear, Southgate took charge of his first match - a 1-0 win against Moldova with Luke Shaw and John Stones in defence.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
A measure of how seriously Southgate took his duties was evident in one of his first decisions. He had been a pundit for ITV but as soon as he signed his contract to work at St George’s Park, he took himself out of the media. He didn’t want anyone thinking there was a safety net under him. Results were good early on.
A promising striker called Harry Kane scored a hat-trick in his third match in charge against San Marino; England plundered 23 goals in his first six matches that autumn, but it would be wrong to say it was plain sailing.
His captain, Andre Wisdom, was sent off in his second game against Finland; his fourth match - a 5-0 drubbing of Lithuania at Ipswich - saw Ravel Morrison and Wilfried Zaha trade blows. In San Marino, Raheem Sterling threw a tantrum after Kane wouldn’t let him take a penalty.
The manager worked with Harry Kane at U21 level, with the striker scoring a hat-trick in his third game
He was also tough with Raheem Sterling when clashed with