Time for England's boo boy fans to give Gareth Southgate some respect

England’s head coach has guided the Three Lions into the knockout stage of Euro 2020 yet still the knockers and critics fire shots at him

Gareth Southgate continues to receive advice from England fans as to which team he should play at Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate continues to receive advice from England fans as to which team he should play at Euro 2020.

Ignore the hype and the grandiose Twitter statements. This is no 2002-2006 golden generation of English footballers. Not yet, anyhow.

Pick your all-time England team. How many of this squad's players would get in the squad, never mind the starting XI?

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I selected mine before the Scotland game and not one current player made it. Harry Kane was the only one truly under consideration and in five years time we will possibly be putting him up alongside Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney, Jimmy Greaves and Alan Shearer as one of the great strikers we have seen with Three Lions on his chest.

There's a clamour for Southgate to give Jack Grealish more minutes in an England shirt.

But not yet.

We all hope (nay, expect) one or two of Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount or Jadon Sancho will rank one day alongside your Beckham, Scholes, Lampard, Owen, Robson or Gascoigne.

But not yet.

Full of promise and potential but raw and hugely inexperienced on the world stage. These lads may light up the Premier League and Bundesliga on occasions, but would you have them in your team week in, week out ahead of true, established, world-class players like N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldo, Toni Kroos or Robert Lewandowski?

England's coach Gareth Southgate reacts from the sidelines as they beat Czech Republic in Group D.

Foden only has eight caps. Bellingham six. Jack Grealish, the great hope for this tournament, has nine and has never played in Europe for Aston Villa. Mount (18 caps), Sancho (20) and Declan Rice (20) look veterans on the international stage in comparison.

Their time will hopefully come but it may not be at this tournament and possibly not even the next.

That may not be under Gareth Southgate s watch. He's already been in this job for five years, with a contract that runs through until 2024, but the clamour for his removal continues among sections of the fanbase, regardless of his achievements.

A win percentage of 63% in an era where international football is generally perceived to have more strength in depth should be lauded, but every achievement is disparaged by the knockers.

A World Cup semi-final? We only beat rubbish teams.

Qualifying for knockout stages without conceding a goal? The football's dull.

Spot on team selection v Croatia? We would have won by more if Grealish/Shaw/Bellingham had started.

Sometimes as a manager, you can’t win – even when the scoreboard says you have.

Scratch below the results and performances, and Southgate’s value to this England set-up becomes more clear.

For too long, England managers have been in thrall to the big egos and personalities of the national squad. Sven-Goran Eriksson with David Beckham & Co; Fabio Capello’s pandering to John Terry and Wayne Rooney.

For too long, cliques inside the camp ensured there was never a cohesive squad all pulling together.

For too long, England fans have called for players outside the ‘big six’ to be considered for international duty.

Along comes a manager who dispels of all that, who changes the culture, who fills his squad with players from Leeds, Burnley, Southampton, Brighton, West Brom, Wolves and Aston Villa, who has the balls to drop the big names when he feels it’s right – and guess what, we’re still not happy.

I’m not naive. Southgate has his limitations as a manager and a coach at the highest level. He doesn’t have the flair or charisma of Roberto Mancini, the knowledge and nous of Joachim Low or the experience and organisation of Didier Deschamps.

He’s inherently cautious and his in-game management at times leaves a lot to be desired, though some of the tactics which are used to beat the ex-Middlesbrough man over the head with by his doubters are the same ones which someone as esteemed as Gary Neville insists is the right approach to adopt.

It may be something which comes back to bite Southgate on the backside, as it did in the World Cup semi-final. For now, they’ve done a job and a squad that is extremely limited in experience and lacking in true world-class stars is through to the next stage.

For that, the manager deserves some respect.