World Cup 2022: Will Gareth Southgate stay on as England manager?

England manager Gareth Southgate. Credit: PA

If not Gareth, then who? That’s the conundrum facing the FA if after reflection the current men’s boss decides another two years is two years too many.

But it’s not just the succession riddle that has FA bosses keeping their fingers and everything else crossed; it’s the fact that they genuinely feel Gareth Southgate has more to give.

His record both in tournaments and off the pitch has been exceptional since he took over six years ago. He has transformed what had been a divided and self-centred culture around the national team and created an environment in which players genuinely enjoy working in and which brings out the best in them, as footballers and as role models.

If you want to understand why his players would run through brick walls for him, just listen to Southgate’s answer when asked about Harry Kane’s penalty miss. I paraphrase but it went along the lines of Kane is an outstanding leader, player and human being – if it wasn’t for him and his goals we wouldn’t even be here, we win together and we lose together. That is why the squad wants him to carry on.

The performance last night was almost certainly the best against a top nation in the Southgate era and so, despite not making a second successive semi-final there has been evidence of this team’s consistent progression.

Most neutral observers would concede that England were the better team against France, but the fact is they did not win; overall the World Champions were more clinical in the big moments.

Southgate consoles Harry Kane following England's loss. Credit: PA

In retrospect and from the armchair it is easy to nit-pick about the make-up and the timing of Southgate’s substitutions, but England had more possession, double the number of shots France managed and found Hugo Lloris in outstanding form; the Tottenham keeper having ‘one of those nights.’

So many of the Three Lions’ youngsters had a match to remember on the world stage, particularly Saka and Rice, but Kane too reminded everyone what he’s capable of against first class opposition.

So, given all that and given how much incredible and improving young talent is at his disposal, will Southgate conclude he has unfinished business? With no obvious English successor and with a foreign manager not a favoured option; the FA certainly hope so.

Southgate may feel though that he’s done the best he can, that the players would benefit from different ideas from a different voice. He may even decide that he wants to step off the merry-go-round and spend more time with his family.

If he does though we should thank him for the job he’s done to reset the national football team who are now much loved, respected and whose best days are ahead of them.

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