The man who made England smile again: Gareth Southgate doesn’t get every decision right but, as he reaches five years in the job, he’s created a team light-years away from where they were in 2016

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  • Gareth Southgate has changed the England team in the last five years
  • He had inherited a grudge following the folly of his predecessor, Sam Allardyce.
  • Southgate was initially seen as a ‘yes’ guy, but he has done wonders
  • He has guided a group to the World Cup semi-finals as well as the European final.

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The first thing to remember is what the landscape on that day looked like five years ago.

In October 2016, enthusiasm for the England team was at an all-time low. It wasn’t too much for Gareth Southgate either.

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The sad night in Iceland and Nice that June was still fresh. The players who were involved in that embarrassing exit from the Euros will never forget the fury that engulfed them after that 2-1 loss and were wary of what they would welcome at Wembley. Southgate was also unsure what to expect.

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October 2016 was supposed to be the month when Sam Allardyce made his home dugout debut, but his folly meant he became the second man to lose the highest managerial position in English football in a span of 14 weeks.

England were in a crisis in 2016, having been humiliated by Iceland’s defeat at the Euroso.

Gareth Southgate originally took over as acting boss

Sam Allardyce was sacked after a newspaper sting

Gareth Southgate (left) saw Sam Allardyce (right) being axed after a newspaper sting

The FA are used to dealing with storms but this chaos was different. Why should England ever be taken seriously? They couldn’t keep their house in order, players couldn’t deal with opponents that seemed inferior. World Cup semi-finalist and Euro finalist within five years? forget it.

On 8 October 2016, the task was to defeat Bus Malta. Southgate – caretaker, initially for four matches – was not even sure how long he would be in situ. However, one thing was certain that he was ready. After Roy Hodgson was released from prison, Southgate made it clear that he should not be considered as a potential replacement.

After hurling Allardyce through the exit door, embarrass herself and the FA for getting into a sting. Daily Telegraph, Southgate decided it was time for his country to step up. That opportunity, he knew, might never come again.

“One of the most important things to me is how it affects my family,” Southgate said in her first press conference. ‘ They are ready for it. My wife (Allison) has gone through the whole door-to-door scenario. We have lived it (after his missed penalty at Euro 96).

‘How it affects your kids is up to you but you try to prepare them as much as you can. I am excited about the challenge. Do I think I am the right person to do this role at the moment? Yes.’

He stepped into this position from his job at the Under-21s, and one of his first big decisions was to make his debut for Jesse Lingard. Southgate had relied on the Manchester United player through his spell in charge of the development squad.

Southgate's first game in charge of the national team came against Malta at Wembley

Southgate’s first game in charge of the national team came against Malta at Wembley

Lingard’s promotion revealed that all young players show a way, and his manager made the moment special by presenting him his shirt.

Lingard said, ‘I have been with England for many years. ‘I’ve seen the camps change, but at the moment, the camps are some of the best. Solidarity and team spirit, Gareth has set us on the right track.

Those first 90 minutes were relatively hassle free. Malta was sent 2-0 but it was not a pleasant atmosphere. There was brainstorming, many people at Wembley were in common with Southgate, and the focus was on Wayne Rooney’s poor form.

Southgate was brushed off by many as a ‘yes’ man, someone who avoided big decisions; Three days later in Ljubljana, Rooney was knocked out for another World Cup qualifier. Jordan Henderson was given the captaincy.

However, how would things have turned out if a problematic game against Slovenia had ended in defeat? England were bad that evening and it was only for the fact that Joe Hart had the best defense in his career from Jasmine Kurtic that they were able to score a point.

He changed the culture and playing style by taking the World Cup semi-finals in 2018

He changed the culture and playing style by taking the World Cup semi-finals in 2018

Fans are watching the England team they believe in and Southgate has been important to them

Fans are watching the England team they believe in and Southgate has been important to them

‘It was like an out-of-body experience,’ said Hart. sportsmail.

‘I defended first but when I was in the air, I managed to rebound my hand. I landed on the post and my body went into shock.

‘I fell on the floor, I didn’t know what had happened so the doctor ran away.

‘He did a concussion test on me and I started feeling a little better. He said, “Do you know what just happened?” I said, “Yeah… I just made the world!” He looked at Gareth and said, “Yeah, he’s fine!”

So, so was Southgate. We all know about the key moments in the last five years, the run up to the semi-finals of the World Cup and the surge to the Euro finals this summer, but there have been several key points in between.

The campaign in Russia, he felt, was crucial in breaking down some key barriers in terms of players’ confidence that they deserved to be on such a big stage.

He mastered a run in the final of Euro 2020, where England were beaten on penalties

He mastered a run in the final of Euro 2020, where England were beaten on penalties

Not every Southgate decision is right but in five years he has revolutionized the team

Not every Southgate decision is right but in five years he has revolutionized the team

What will happen over the next 14 months is unknown – Southgate will not enter talks about a new contract until mid-November, at the earliest, after a trip to San Marino – but what has changed over the past five years is that England Now look like a proper team.

True, he doesn’t get every decision right – name a manager who does – but the England you’ll see in the next five days is light years away from the England we saw five years ago. That, of course, is down to a man.

Steve Holland, his longtime assistant, said, ‘We have some great ideas with some great employees. ‘In the end Gareth is the man who has to accept full responsibility, he knows what comes with that. He makes the final call.’

And, on several occasions since October 8, 2016, the final call has been true.

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