1. ITV Report

Southgate wants to develop his England players mentally

Southgate attends Hull vs Everton. Photo: PA

Gareth Southgate believes there are things that can be done to improve the mental strength of his England players.

England received criticism in the summer following their exit to Iceland at the European Championship.

Roy Hodgson's players appeared to lack mental toughness and leadership after falling behind to the minnows and looked devoid of ideas and unable to adapt to things going wrong.

Former Under-21 boss Southgate, appointed as manager a month ago after impressing during a four-game spell in caretaker charge, thinks there are techniques he and his staff can use when they have the players but also when the squad are not on national duty.

One method he is using is getting the players more involved in the tactical preparation ahead of a game.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme: ''I think for me the key is peaking mentally, arriving at tournaments as one of the genuine favourites, because over the two or three years in qualifying and against the big teams we have been outstanding.

''I think there are things we can work on with the team to help develop mental strength. I think mental resilience is generally a product of the experiences you've been through, so we have to tap into those.

''One thing I think is for certain is that we can't just rely on the 10 or 12 fixtures we have a year to develop that, we've got to put our players in some situations off the field to bring that on.

''Historically in my career the coach stood at the front and delivered the tactical overview and we as players just got on with it. What we've started to do with junior national teams is start to give the players more ownership of that sort of thing.

''I think often the players have the best solutions, they're the ones playing the game. As a coach, we'll have done our homework but in preparation for a match as the week progresses we want the players to put their ideas across.

''Maybe that's challenging for some coaches as they're not comfortable with that challenge from the players but my view is that it's got to be collective ownership of what we are doing and the players should have more responsibility.

''Otherwise, if they have had no input how do we know that they really agree with it when they have to make decisions out on the field? What you do in the game should just be a transfer of what you've been doing on the training pitch.

''We have to have more leaders out on the pitch. The team I played in in 1996, there were probably six or seven who were captains of their clubs.

"You need strong characters not only to make decisions but when the game is going against you who are going to step forward.

''At different moments you've got to have people take that lead, whether that's being brave enough to take the ball or talking to the others to get them mentally back on course.

''A lot of that responsibility in recent years has fallen on Wayne Rooney's shoulders and that's got to be shared, and that's not just on the field but off it in particular.

"There are definitely potential leaders in the group I have worked with over the last four matches.''