sport news Gareth Southgate blocks out criticism after England's 0-0 draw with USA at ... trends now
Down in the depths of Al Bayt Stadium, players hurried from their changing rooms to the team coaches that would take them back through the desert to Doha. Gareth Southgate stood behind a barrier, talking.
Barriers have become useful for him. He has started to erect them in his mind and even in his hotel room at the England base, where he has a rule that he does not switch on his television set.
His team had just been outplayed by the USA in their second group game of this World Cup but even if the performance was as flat and as uninspired as the 6-2 win over Iran was brilliant and entertaining, the 0-0 draw keeps England top of their group and needing only a point against Wales on Tuesday night to qualify for the last 16.
Gareth Southgate has enjoyed great success since taking charge of England back in 2016
Southgate has already led England to a 2018 World Cup semi-final and Euro 2020 final
Perspective is a dirty word in the heat of these competitions but it is worth remembering that at this stage of the 2014 World Cup, England had already been eliminated.
Fortunes ebb and flow at tournaments but for those who have convinced themselves England would have won the 2018 World Cup and Euros in 2021 if Southgate had not been in charge, then stalemate against the USA was another sign of the apocalypse.
Southgate knew that the result would bring the noise. He knew that even though England had cut loose against Iran, the goalless draw against Gregg Berhalter’s side would immediately revive accusations he was an over-cautious manager who was stifling England’s great talents.
At Euro 2020, Jack Grealish was the saviour Southgate was accused of ignoring. At this tournament, Phil Foden has already been anointed in that role.
England limped to a lifeless 0-0 draw against USA in their second World Cup group game
The Three Lions manager (right) has trusted experienced members of his squad in Qatar
Southgate blocked that all out. He said he had told his players they should not be disappointed by the result. He had told them they had taken another step closer to their first goal of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Few teams have the kind of seamless group stage progressions that Southgate masterminded at the last World Cup and Euros and this was just a small bump in the road.
‘I am lucky,’ he said, when he was asked about the criticism that would be coming his way. ‘I am locked away in a hotel with no telly on. But I don’t need to see it because I know what it will be. It is a deliberate disengagement on my part.
'Because if I listen to everything, I either go bonkers or you start to doubt yourself and you listen to too many things.
Team captain Harry Kane (middle) is expected to provide goals for his country out in Qatar
‘I am clear on how we need to be and on decisions we need to make. We won’t get every single decision right and so if there is criticism of certain calls, then so be it.
But if you had said to me, ‘Four points from the two games, goal difference where it is’, then I knew tonight would be a tough game. We would love to have won it and got the job done, but we haven’t, so we have to go again.