Euro 2020: Why Steve Holland, Gareth Southgate's assistant manager, is England's secret weapon

Steve Holland is England manager Gareth Southgate's assistant. Credit: PA

While Gareth Southgate has received a plethora of praise throughout the Euros, his right-hand man has kept quiet in the background - but assistant manager Steve Holland is England’s secret weapon on the training pitch and sidelines.

The 51-year-old’s playing career is a footnote in his life, after retiring aged 21 to go into coaching. 

Holland joined Crewe a year later where he worked under Dario Gradi, who had coached his new mentee as a youth. 

Crewe’s academy has produced a number of players that have gone on to play in the Premier League, including Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson and Danny Murphy, also giving Holland his foundations for a successful career.

Eventually, Holland replaced Gradi as the club’s manager in 2007 after completing his Uefa Pro Licence.  It was tough to follow the club’s most successful manager in its history after 24 years in charge but Holland accepted the challenge and tried to change things, despite Gradi staying at the club as Technical Director.

Steve Holland had a spell in charge of Crewe. Credit: PA

“It was difficult for him to take over and do his own thing,” former Crewe defender Billy Jones told ITV News. “As a manager it is all based on results, it is very difficult to set your standards over a year, as the average lifespan of a manager is 18 months in a role.”

It was a tough learning curve but he had merited his promotion thanks to his work in the club’s academy and around the first team, with his capabilities obvious to those who played under him.

“Everything that was done in training and the sessions were very thorough and it needed to be done in a certain way to get the results for us,” says Jones, who is now the head of Maidstone United’s academy.

“On the tactics side of things it was very meticulous in terms of him wanting to succeed, obviously for himself but also as a club. 

“He had his way and that he would not be governed - you can imagine someone working under Dario Gradi, who was a club legend, and take over the helm and do it his way, it spoke volumes as he could have come in and done exactly the same as before. 

“He wanted to change things and they kept creeping in, the players enjoyed that and understood it.”

Billy Jones worked under Holland at Crewe. Credit: PA

Senior players like Neil Cox, who had spent the majority of his career in the Premier League, would tell the youngsters to take notice of Holland as the quality of his coaching and analysis was of the highest order.

“He was never a screamer and shouter, I don’t think I ever saw him lose his temper, he spoke in the right manner with people, but if someone needed a telling off, they got it. 

“His man-management was good, though I assume he has got better at it due to the players he has worked with since, I think that was a big learning curve at the very start, as he wanted to do all his coaching but had to the other side of things as well. He was really good in that sense.”

Holland always had a high level of respect for players, as he aimed to improve them as individuals and the team as a whole but he would be sacked after just 17 months as manager.

Holland during his time in charge at Crewe. Credit: PA

“As a player you go home on a Saturday, you obviously see your family or go out, then Sunday is your rest day, but as soon as you walked through the door Monday morning he was ready and he had been looking over the tapes of the game on Saturday. He would have clips of what we’d done well, where we could improve, our positions on the pitch, the way we linked together and you just sat there and thought about how much work he has done and the dedication he has to make things better for the team.

“He always said: ‘if anyone wants to go through the game with me, I am happy to sit and do so’. It was always a learning process.”

It was a fight for Holland to earn the respect of certain players at the club due to his lack of a playing career behind him but he did lead them to a mid-table finish in League One.

England v Italy: What you need to know about the Euro 2020 final

When is the final happening?

The Euro 2020 final kicks off at 8pm on Sunday 11 July at Wembley Stadium.

Can I get a ticket?

While the capacity for the final, along with both semi-finals which have all been at Wembley, has been increased to more than 60,000, it seems there is little hope of securing a ticket if you do not already have one. As it stands, there are no tickets on sale on the Uefa website for the final. Most ticket sales took place in 2019, long before the matches in each stage of the knockout stage of the competition were known. If the situation changes, however, and more tickets do become available, fans would likely need to stump up hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds to secure a seat.

Where can I watch the game on TV or online?

The game will be broadcast on ITV, with its coverage starting from 6.30pm on Sunday. It will also be available to stream online on the ITV Hub (for viewers in the UK only).

What if I'm watching it at a pub?

Pubs in England will be allowed to stay open later on Sunday, in case the final goes to penalties, Downing Street has said.

The government has granted pubs special permission to open until 11.15pm - 15 minutes after normal closing time on Sunday.

“We signed some players who thought he was not a coach, but more of a schoolteacher. It wasn’t that way, it was just how he did things. There are many coaches, and some of the best, who have not played. They understand coaching and how to handle people and that is the best way to get respect.”

After being relieved of his duties at Gresty Road, Holland would go on to work at Stoke, before joining the staff at Chelsea as he aimed to progress his career after the blow of being dismissed by the club he invested so much time in cast him aside.

Seth Twumasi was part of the Chelsea reserve team that Holland managed. Credit: PA

“You could see when he came in to manage the reserve team he was always going to go a long way, it was just a matter of time,” former Chelsea defender Seth Twumasi explains.

“I see him more as a top class No 2, than a manager in a first-team environment. Working together in a team environment where he is passing on his opinion to the main manager, he is absolutely top class.”

Holland was back to working with young players, managing the west London club’s reserve team, as he looked to develop the talented players coming through.

“Steve’s man-management skills make young players go out there and feel like they can be the best in the world. There is no pressure he puts on players, he tells players to go out and enjoy themselves and take each day as it comes, that encouragement he gives players and you can see why the current group in the England team are doing so well.”

Holland worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Credit: PA

A slight meekness could be the reason Holland has not been suited to management but he showed at Chelsea his value to a staff and was promoted to the first where he worked under Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. 

“He is a very, very quiet, shy person and softly spoken when you chat to him one-on-one but on the pitch he is a totally different character,” Twumasi explains.

Southgate brought Holland into the England camp when working as Under-21 manager, taking with him when he received a promotion. The duo have brought hope back to perennial underachievers England through their methodical workings and ability to bring harmony and humility to the national team squad.

Like Southgate, his club managerial career was underwhelming, but together the two have taken England to a European Championship final and Holland’s meticulous nature could make the difference once more. 

Who else is on Southgate's coaching staff?

Graeme Jones (assistant coach)

The former Wigan striker has experience of coaching at international level thanks to a spell working with Roberto Martinez for Belgium. Jones was a late replacement in Southgate’s backroom for Allan Russell, who departed the England setup after accepting his responsibility for a road traffic collision. A spell as Luton Town manager ended after less than a year in charge in 2020. In January he joined the Newcastle staff and was credited with helping the club turn their season around. 

Chris Powell (left) and Graeme Jones (right) with Gareth Southgate. Credit: PA

Chris Powell (assistant coach)

Sven Goran Eriksson gave the former Charlton defender his first involvement with the national team when he gave him a surprise call-up to his first squad as manager. Following retirement from playing he enjoyed managerial spells at Charlton, Huddersfield and Southend. Powell joined up with the Three Lions in 2019 as part of a Football Association programme to improve diversity in coaching.

Martin Margetson (goalkeeping coach)

Welshman Margetson is a remnant of Sam Allardyce’s brief tenure, mainly thanks to his close relationship with Jordan Pickford, having worked together at Everton. Margetson was part of the Wales setup when they reached the semi-finals at the 2016 Euros. His playing career saw him play for Manchester City, Southend and Huddersfield but spent much of his time as an understudy.

England v Italy kicks off at 8pm on Sunday, July 11. Coverage starts on ITV from 6.30pm - it will also be available to stream live on the ITV Hub.