Why England fans need to stop moaning and back Gareth Southgate again

England head into Euro 2020 with expectations sky high, but manager Gareth Southgate continues to prove a divisive figure among supporters.

If social media reaction is anything to go by, being supportive of Gareth Southgate leading England into Euro 2020 is proving to be about as popular a stance as claiming Jedward should have won the Mercury Prize, or insisting that tomato ketchup really does add a certain pizzazz to the humble Sunday roast.

The inclusion of Brighton's Ben White as Trent Alexander-Arnold's replacement in England's 26-man squad sparked mass outrage online, and in the blink of an eye the tiresome demands for England to sack their manager began once again, as the latest gloom-ridden mass pile-on got under way.

It begs the question: is this really the kind of negativity we need on the eve of a major tournament?

Why England fans need to stop moaning and support Gareth Southgate
Why England fans need to stop moaning and support Gareth Southgate
Why England fans need to stop moaning and support Gareth Southgate

Like it or not, the demands of the baying, bandwagon-jumping mob furiously brandishing their virtual '#SouthgateOut' banners at every update from the England camp is not going to see the manager sacked before Euro 2020 begins, and it's time for the nation to get behind Gareth ahead of the competition.

Just take a look at the facts: since English football nosedived to a catastrophic new low following Sam Allardyce's humiliating exit - which, let's not forget, followed the indignity of crashing out of Euro 2016 to Iceland - Southgate was tasked with the unenviable mission of hauling the haunted shipwreck that was the men's national team up from the sea bed, and preparing it to set sail for the 2018 World Cup as if the horrors of before had never happened.

He did just that, with a relentless gusto and bravery that, bizarrely, seems to be long forgotten.

All but ending the rapidly expiring international career of Wayne Rooney, for example, was a bold decision Allardyce never had the guts to make, and set the cat amongst the pigeons from the get-go.

He's continued sticking to his guns ever since - spearheading a rebranding of the England side right up there with Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw's radical overhaul of the Germany squad following their shock group stage exit from Euro 2004 .

Pressing on with the England DNA project in mind, Southgate shook up the system, seeing the side - gasp - playing the ball out from the back with a technically-gifted goalkeeper, and taking inspiration from Chelsea's runaway success with the revival of a back three in their 2016/17 title-winning campaign - adopting the same approach to take England to an unprecedented 2018 World Cup semi-final.

While Southgate can't dine out on that tournament forever, he was the heroic, bewaistcoated figure who brought a bitterly divided nation together in that scorching, endless summer. A summer that saw the country united in a haze of euphoric plastic pint glass showers as 'Three Lions' blasted out of battered pub PA systems up and down the land - it was unquestionably the most satisfying, feel-good England tournament experience since Euro '96.

Pressing on, England scored 37 goals in eight matches as they swashbuckled their way to Euro 2020 with ease - making it just one loss in two entire qualification campaigns, which isn't bad going - and have also shown their ability to beat the big boys with impressive wins against the likes of Spain, Croatia and Belgium in the UEFA Nations League to boot.

While there has been the odd blip along the way - most notably, the harrowing UEFA Nations League semi-final exit to the Netherlands in 2019 - and the football hasn't always as dazzling as some would like, this is hardly fair grounds for dismissal.

Critics of Southgate often, superficially, cite his cautious demeanour for their distrust. He has been continually branded ‘vanilla’, but is this really such a bad thing? A diet consisting strictly of José Mourinho et al’s noxious brand of pomposity-drenched sundaes is surely detrimental to one’s constitution.

In fact, his honesty is far from bland, and is more of a refreshing palate-cleansing sorbet, offering a breath of fresh air to contrast the stale gust of wind which has too often engulfed the press conferences of England managers of old.

The flawless professionalism in dealing with the shameful booing of England players taking the knee in solidarity against racism is a prime example of this, as he continues to eloquently back the actions of his group, and explain calmly why they won't be cowed into submission by the pig-headed behaviour of the jeering minority.

Of course, he isn't a Pep Guardiola or Thomas Tuchel type of manager - he's not a tactical genius by any stretch of the imagination. But pragmatism, for all the derision that comes with it, is an invaluable asset in high pressure, major tournament football, and it's a shining quality of Southgate's that should be cherished, rather than derided.

There's every chance that football won't come home this summer, and he will become the latest in a long line of managers to be waved off by the arrogant element of the fan base who, emboldened by an ever-rampant tabloid press, still maintain that the country have a God-given right to swagger their way to major tournament success, despite failing to win one since 1966.

As we've seen all too often, social media at its worst is just a teeming mass of bodies hysterically spewing molten jets of bile in every direction, and it's all too easy to get bogged down, or even caught up in, the dizzying misery of it all.

It's been a desperately bleak year and a half for the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, and a summer football tournament should be exactly the kind of thing to, if only temporarily, boost the morale of the nation in celebration of the beautiful game.

Now, let's give the incessant keyboard hammering a rest, get behind the manager, and just enjoy it for what it is, shall we?