England got lucky against Slovakia when they didn't have to, writes CRAIG HOPE. It's time for Gareth Southgate to MANAGE his team against Switzerland

England got lucky against Slovakia when they didn't have to, writes CRAIG HOPE. It's time for Gareth Southgate to MANAGE his team against Switzerland
By: dailymail Posted On: July 06, 2024 View: 79

  • England manager Gareth Southgate must be more decisive in his actions 
  • The Three Lions face Switzerland in the quarter finals of Euro 2024 
  • LISTEN: Join us as we debate the BIGGEST talking points on It's All Kicking Off! EUROS DAILY. Available wherever you get your podcasts 

Gareth, do something!! 

It is rare, as a football reporter, that you feel any emotion when covering a game. I always use the word ‘anaesthetised’, describing the numbing of the joys and stresses of being a football fan. 

You love what you do, but you’re not as invested in the result as the grown man with face paint a few rows along.

Yet, on Sunday in Gelsenkirchen, that was different. It was not really patriotism, or finding yourself giddy amid the ferment of knockout football at a major tournament. 

No, it was irritation. An actual tremble, totally involuntary, and induced by sheer frustration.

Gareth Southgate must be more decisive when England face Switzerland in the quarter finals
A moment of genius from Jude Bellingham set the stage for a dramatic extra time showdown

Gareth, do something!!

England were getting beat 1-0 by Slovakia, and deservedly so. Slovakia, that is, ranked 45th in the world. 

There were 45 minutes to play and Southgate had decided against making changes at half-time. Then there were 40 minutes to play, then 35, 30, 25. Still, no changes.

The substitutes warmed up, but not half as much as those in the stands, bubbling with annoyance. It was the injustice of it all. 

Where were the players who would patently liven this dozy bunch sleepwalking towards defeat? 

Answer: they were sat on the bench with neck ache, each of their heads locked right in the direction of the rabbit in the floodlights.

Gareth, do something!!

With 24 minutes to play, and with Kieran Trippier having taken a whack on his knee, Southgate was seemingly forced into a change. On came Cole Palmer. There was a slight improvement, but it needed more. 

Late introductions in England's late win against Slovakia changed the fortunes of the game

It needed the kitchen sink. Rather, it felt like Southgate was throwing in the kitchen towel. It took close to another 20 minutes for his next change. 

Was that him keeping the faith, as many have suggested? If so, it was blind faith. Come the 94th minute, England had registered zero shots on target.

Gareth, do something!!

Finally, in the 95th minute, the change that changed the game. Ivan Toney, as peeved as the rest of us, was brought on. 

I wrote afterwards that Southgate deserved credit for that. What nonsense. Given what Toney did in 30 seconds what could he - and others, such as the bafflingly unused Anthony Gordon - have achieved in 30 minutes?

Because for Southgate to be heralded as the ultimate gambler by keeping the faith and getting his reward, well that is just as nonsensical as the assertion that his Toney substitution was inspired.

Bellingham celebrates with England captain and eventual match winner, Harry Kane
Forward Ivan Toney impressed, but only after spending a duration of the game on the bench

England got lucky. The irritation, the one that causes your body to rattle, was that England did not have to get lucky. 

It is disrespectful to the quality they have to rely on such moments of genius as the one from Jude Bellingham.

That is why it is time this weekend for Southgate to manage. For Southgate to impact England’s destiny. For Southgate to emerge from this frozen, confused state of paralysis in which he has been locked here in Germany.

It is time for Gareth to do something.

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