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  1. ITV Report

England manager Gareth Southgate has always been underestimated - ex-Crystal Palace boss Alan Smith

Gareth Southgate has always been underestimated, a fact that has helped him achieve all he has, according to former Crystal Palace manager Alan Smith.

The England boss arrived at Palace as a teenager after being released by Southampton but Smith saw straightaway what he could offer, as Southgate quickly progressed through the rank, going on to make over 150 league appearances for the club.

"He had just been released by Southampton and was obviously a bit depressed about it. He turned up at our training ground and made an instant mark," Smith told ITV News.

"Quiet, but efficient, [he] wanted to learn and very early on he became the youth team captain and then at 17 he became the reserve team captain, managing people that were eight years, nine older than him."

Alan Smith managed Southgate at Palace. Credit: PA

Since those early days in the Palace youth team, Southgate has continued to impress all those who he has come into contact with in the game.

He captained Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough during his career, earning 56 England caps in the process.

Prior to taking the England job he was Middlesbrough manager, before leading the England Under-21 team and Smith believe is the right man for his current role.

"He's always been underestimated, people forget he played 56 times for England, captained all three clubs [he played for], but I think going under the radar has helped him in many ways, especially when he got to become the under-21 coach for England, which he did very successfully, I think it just gave him the chance to stand back and see how the football operation worked and what the philosophy was of the Football Association. There's wasn't a philosophy, actually, and he brought one in.

"I was very confident he was the right person; he had a plan, he understood how the Under-21s worked, he understood the Under-17s and he knew it needed a change. There was a little bit of player power in the past."

Gareth Southgate started his professional career at Crystal Palace. Credit: PA

Smith is still in contact with Southgate and knows all too well how he will be dealing with being under scrutiny as he prepares the England team for their biggest game in 28 years, ahead of the World Cup semi-final clash with Croatia on Wednesday.

"I think he's love the playing side, the camaraderie he's built up with his staff, the players he's loving. I think he's finding it a bit more difficult dealing with the adulation, the waistcoats, the way he conducts himself, because to him that's natural - what you see with Gareth is what you get.

"I think it's made him a more driven person. Once you haven't done something yourself, you're more driven for others and there's no doubt about it, Gareth's a giver not a taker and I think he's built up such an affinity with this team."