Gareth Southgate reveals why he considered quitting England but couldn’t walk away

Gareth Southgate has told ITV News that his family played a part in his decision to stay on as manager of the Three Lions.

England fans partly have Gareth Southgate’s family to thank for him staying on as the Three Lions boss.

“They left Doha saying you've got to give this one more go and try to get this trophy,” he revealed this week.

At the time he was undecided about whether to quit or not. England had just lost to France in a quarter final they probably should have won, and Southgate had led his squad to their worst tournament finish under him.

His parting shot to the media in Qatar was that he needed time to think about his future. What he actually meant, and no one realised it at the time, was that he was considering not what was best for him, but what was best for the team.

Speaking for the first time since deciding to stay on, Southgate told me there were occasions even before the World Cup when he seriously considered his position.

Gareth Southgate says 'I'm in a job with the chance to make some history' when faced with questions surrounding his future

He points to when England were taken apart by Hungary at Molineux in the summer, and abuse rained down on him as he approached the fans at the end of the game.

“There was negativity about me being in charge and the last thing I wanted was for that to be the over-arching feeling going into a World Cup when you need the fans and everybody behind the team. You need that energy; you need that sense of togetherness," he said.

“And if the debate was only going to be about finding flaws in what we were doing, in order that I go at the end, then that would have been very difficult for the team to perform at their best.”

Typical Southgate, it was not about him after all. But surely that reaction hurt?

“I don't think anybody would choose to walk over at the end of a game and get abuse, but I've also been in football long enough to know that.

"I can deal with it, and you've got to lead your players through those moments as well. I don't think anybody could say they enjoy it, but it also isn't going to determine exactly what I do and what I don't do.”

“Part of being a manager is dealing with pressure and dealing with those games where there's so much resting on it.

"And although I love the job and I want to do the job, I also don't want to be somebody that's here and hindering the performance of the team just because I'm the person in charge.”

Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Harry Maguire at the end of the the clash against Germany at Wembley Stadium in September. Credit: PA

If there was inner turmoil ahead of the World Cup, it dissipated after England’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley in September. A performance that was roundly praised and reduced the pressure on Southgate.

While his decision to stay until next year’s Euros has largely been welcomed, there is a view among some that Southgate has now had three stabs at it and, for all the improvements, England have still failed to beat one of the ‘big teams’ in a major tournament overseas.

Critics believe a fresh pair of eyes might solve that, but they are opinions the England boss says he has to push to one side.

Speaking for the first time since returning from the World Cup in Qatar, Gareth Southgate told ITV News Sport Editor Steve Scott that abuse from fans during last summer's fixtures made him consider his position

“You're always going to have that, there will always be the thought that somebody else could do things differently and I'm not going to affect people's thinking on that until we actually go and win something. So, I've got to close myself off from that noise.”

But what of his in-game management, another area of his job that attracts much attention. Why, for example, did in-form Marcus Rashford only get a few minutes in the French game?

“I think people are looking at his form post tournament as much as anything. Had Marcus played and the result being like that, they’d have been saying Phil Foden should have played, or Jack Grealish, so I've got peace with what we did and how we went about it. I also know that's how the narrative always works after our games.”

Watch Steve Scott's full interview with Gareth Southgate

So why is it that England can’t go that one step further? Are England players too nice, do they lack the killer instinct?

“I don't think there is a simple solution to any of those problems. There have been tournaments we haven't qualified for, there have been tournaments where we've lost the games in our group stage that we should have won, which has meant we've had a harder path to get through in the knockout stages.

“So, we've been nailing those things and making complicated things look fairly straightforward in the last few tournaments. The last bit is to beat the big teams and I don't think over the years we've necessarily been at the level of those big teams.

“The performance against France has shown the players if they didn't believe it before, which I still wonder whether they truly believed that before the game, but coming off the field they know that is a game they could win and should have won.”

And that is why he stayed for another tournament, at least.

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This weekend Southgate is taking in a round of FA Cup matches; it’s a tournament that for him is increasingly important due to the shrinking number of opportunities for English youngsters to be tested under pressure in the Premier League.

“The FA Cup is often the first opportunity for young players to come into their teams and to get competitive experience under pressure. And that's very important for us because we still have a lack of depth in terms of young players playing in the (Premier) league.

"We're still at around 30% of players in the league qualified to play for England and that's very low. So, the opportunity for them to cut their teeth in the cup competition and establish themselves in a team is really invaluable.”

“We have a perception that we've got a huge depth of talent, but we actually have less players playing in the big five leagues than most of our rivals.

"And the numbers in the Premier League this season have diminished again. So that is a concern for England moving forward.”

The England team before the World Cup Quarter-Final match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Credit: PA

For the time being though Southgate is blessed with some exceptional young talent; Bellingham, Saka and Foden to name just three, all of whom made important contributions at the World Cup.

So, from nearly walking away, the performances in Qatar persuaded him that this team, under his leadership has more to give. But that has to lead to major silverware.

“I’m in a job with the chance to make some history and I have the privilege of leading the national team. It's been an unbelievable experience. I think we've made progress with the team across the years we've been in charge, and I'm determined to try and drive the team that next step.

“I think now we're in a different landscape to any previous England team I guess, because of the success we've had. In our own minds winning is probably the only thing that's going to fulfil us.”

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