‘They want to add to the medals, the successes and victories’: England boss Gareth Southgate believes team’s sense of urgency can fuel them to first trophy since 1966 ahead of Nations League and European Championship
- Days when England would accept second, third or fourth place are long-gone
- Gareth Southgate’s team possess balance of exuberance and ruthlessness
- He believes their sense of urgency can inspire them to first trophy since 1966
There was a time not long ago when second, third or fourth place — or even worse — was acceptable. Those days are gone for England.
Hope has been replaced by expectation and coach Gareth Southgate deserves his fair share of credit for that. Yet there’s only so long Southgate and his players can dine out on what’s gone before.
Their run to the semi-finals at the World Cup or their bronze medal at last year’s UEFA Nations League dragged English football out of the international doldrums. However, the role as gallant loser no longer cuts it.
England are preparing for their Nations League opener away against Iceland on Saturday
Hope has been replaced by expectations in England’s camp as they look to achieve success
‘It’s lovely to talk about the young players because they are so excited, but we have players now for whom winning is what it is about for them,’ said Southgate. ‘They have knocked on the door a couple of times. But they are at a stage of their career where just to be here, to be getting caps, isn’t enough.
‘They want to add to the medals, the successes and victories. You need a core of the team where that is the focus — they drive the team, they drive the behaviour and habits every day.’
Even in a squad depleted by injury and Greek court cases, Southgate’s party possess a balance of exuberance and hard-nosed ruthlessness.
Players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden, who is expected to make his international debut tomorrow, represent the future. At 20, Manchester City midfielder Foden has time on his side.
But for the likes of Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker time is running out. The same goes for Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who weren’t included in this squad.
Southgate believes their sense of urgency can fuel England’s drive for a first trophy since 1966 ahead of next summer’s European Championship and the start of their Nations League campaign that kicks off in Iceland tomorrow.
England have a talented array of promising youngsters starting to break into the team
He said: ‘I think we always have to measure what our internal targets are and how bold we go publicly and there is a balance of not heaping pressure on the team but accepting there is expectation.
‘We have had a good run of two or three years now and to just get where we did before won’t be received with as many accolades as in the past.
‘The team has to acknowledge that, but they are hungry. That is why Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane being here signals that intent and signals the desire to take every opportunity they can to play for England but also to win things.’
Southgate will use this international window to revert to a three-man defence, the system that propelled England to the semi-finals in Russia.
England will deploy a conventional 4-3-3 system tomorrow, but Tuesday’s clash in Denmark, unarguably the tougher game, is expected to see a 3-4-3 formation. Sources within the camp have suggested the 3-4-3 system is the one Southgate is giving serious consideration for next summer’s Euros.
Southgate said: ‘Using a back three is something we want to have a look at. We need to be adaptable and also there are so many uncertainties in terms of who might and might not be available.
‘We wanted flexibility in the squad and I think it’s helpful to be able to play different systems.’
Southgate believes England’s sense of urgency can help inspire them to trophy success
As we head into a crucial two- year period, the landscape of the national team has evolved for the better. If victory eludes them at the European Championship, they only have to wait a little over 12 months before a crack at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
‘We’ve been winning matches so that’s always more enjoyable and that brings people together,’ added Southgate.
‘There’s a different level of confidence which needed rebuilding because we’d had disappointing World Cups where we’d gone out in the group stage, then in the Euros, then two quick changes of manager so everything needed to stabilise a bit.
‘But I’ve been pleased with how excited our more experienced players were at coming back in and then it’s been wonderful to see the reaction of the new call-ups.
‘It takes you back to why you started playing the sport. To play international sport in any sport, is the pinnacle and it’s been a lovely reminder this week with those players for the first time.’
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