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Modest Gareth Southgate Scores A Hit For The Quiet Man

5 July 2021

Gareth Southgate

Being manager of England is a poisoned chalice. Do it well and the rewards are huge. But do it poorly – Steve McClaren, Roy Hodgson, poor old Graham Taylor, the list goes on at length – and your career either hits the buffers or tabloid headlines about turnips and brollies are never far away.

Which isn’t to say that Gareth Southgate’s England journey won’t end in ignominy. However, unlike effervescent geezers like Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables or – if your memory goes back that far – money-grabbing opportunists like Don Revie,Southgate is doing the right thing to keep his integrity intact.

He’s calm, measured, gets neither carried away or aggressively critical. His former teammates – John Salako on 5Live, amongst them – have been universally complimentary about his manner, style and personality.

It helps when you’ve been able to take the national team to two successive semi finals of a major tournament, but Southgate’s doing a good job at maintaining a solid, consistent and – most importantly – managed demeanour for his media performances. A former ITV pundit, he knows the scrutiny that his role entails. He also knows the way in which reporters are always fizzing with excitement trying to squeeze a commitment or prediction for future results from interviewees.

If journalists are one thing, they’re pushy. Professional pride demands being able to trumpet a line, fact, theory or idea which your rivals don’t have. Even if in sport, only two things ever happen: either action on the pitch, court, track or someone talking about it before and after.

Wherever Southgate ends up, it is clear that his reasonable and staid media performances have worked exceptionally well. It proves that sometimes calm reassurance is a real plus in front of the cameras. And no one’s even really mentioned that penalty miss in the 1996 Euros.