Gareth Southgate should remain as England manager and then be kept on by the Football Association to help shape the future of the game in this country, says Gary Neville.
England bowed out of the World Cup after losing 2-1 to the holders France in the quarter-finals, and Southgate has told his bosses at the FA he needs some time to consider his future.
Southgate has been in the role since 2016, guiding England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, as well as the final of Euro 2020, and Neville believes the 51-year-old – who is contracted until 2024 – should stay on in his role.
“I actually hope he doesn’t go back into club management,” he told the Sky Sports World Cup podcast. “I look at him and think there’s no English person alive who has got more experience at major tournaments, junior tournaments and playing for his country.
“He has seen it all and I think he should be kept within the system to design the future. He has been there for 10 years, we’ve had great success with the women’s teams, with the younger teams, and I think we’ve had really good success with the men’s team, and I feel like he has seen that improvement in performance and culture over 10 years. I would like him to stay with the FA beyond his coaching role.”
However, Neville does think Southgate needs to make a decision quickly and not let things drag on too far into the new year, with England playing Italy in Naples in March in a Euro 2024 qualifier.
Gareth is an honest man with great integrity who will make the decision that is right for him and the FA. It feels to me like 18 months is right and Gareth doing this next tournament, maybe knowing there’s a succession plan in place, would feel right to me.
“It was a seven or a seven-and-a-half. A good score. Par,” said Neville of England’s overall World Cup display in Qatar. “I think we always knew there was a collision course coming, more than likely with France in the quarter-final, and it was a game we could lose.
“Everybody who had read the script before the tournament knew England’s path, knew France’s path, and knew that we were going to be facing [Antoine]Griezmann, [Kylain] Mbappe and [Karim] Benzema or [Olivier] Giroud.
“We knew we were going to be in for one hell of a game and one hell of a fight, and that game wasn’t a coin flip, I think it was always a 60-40 to France, they were always favourites.
“We went out but we played really well in the game and there were two or three things that went against us in that match. Penalties not given, fouls not given, Harry missing a penalty even though you would trust him with your life. Things like that happen in football, it’s everyday business.
“I don’t feel too different today than I did straight after the game. That was one of the best performances I’ve seen from an England team playing against a top team at a tournament.
“I knew it was a game we could lose and I’m not going to get angry about it when it could have gone our way.
“There will be those who are listening, who say, ‘You’ve got to have someone who gets us over the line, you’ve got to have someone who has a winning mentality, you’ve got to change the manager.’
“I get that, it sounds beautiful and wonderful, but I remember us getting rid of Bobby Robson in 1990. I remember us getting rid of Terry Venables in 1996. It didn’t go particularly well straight after those tournaments and I think Gareth is doing a very good job and one more tournament for me feels right.
“Hopefully, this team can stick together and evolve. I think it evolved in this tournament. We were more progressive, more positive in matches, and we go for it again.
“Italy didn’t qualify, Germany and Belgium didn’t make it out of the groups, Spain got knocked out by Morocco, Brazil have been dumped out at the quarter-final with the players they’ve got. So, I wouldn’t be killing ourselves too much.
“We need to analyse it and be self-critical, and I think Gareth needs to come out in the next few days and put it to bed. ‘I’m staying’ or ‘I’m not’, because we have games in March and I don’t think going into the new year is fair on the FA because they would need to find a successor.
“Gareth is an honest man with great integrity who will make the decision that is right for him and the FA. It feels to me like 18 months is right and Gareth doing this next tournament, maybe knowing there’s a succession plan in place, would feel right to me.”
Looking further down the line, however, Neville is adamant that when Southgate does finally decide to call it a day, his successor should be English rather than hired help from abroad.
“I played under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello,” he said. “What I found in that period is that we were really in some ways feeling down as a nation about our players, our coaching, our pathway for coaches, and I feel that St George’s Park was the beginning of a new era.
“I was there when St George’s Park was built. I was part of the staff that went in there for the first time. This culture of building a pathway for young English coaches and trying to get more respect in the game for English players and coaches is so that so we could start getting the top jobs again in our own country.
“We know Frank Lampard has taken Chelsea, Graham Potter has now got Chelsea, Eddie Howe’s got Newcastle. So that’s a step forward. I think there is a momentum now with English football.
“I can see now that English players are respected. International players really respect the likes of [Jude] Bellingham, [Phil] Foden, [Jack] Grealish, [Trent] Alexander-Arnold and other players in that position. I think that’s been designed by a very good system in the last 10 years and I think it’s right that we try wherever possible to promote English coaches moving forward.
“Because if we don’t, I think we are going to struggle to get other people to do it. I think we’ve got some momentum with it.
“Gareth wasn’t a fashionable coach when he first came in. In fact, he was probably deemed unfashionable, and yet look at the job he’s done. That’s just through belief, through promoting our own, through believing our own and someone who understands international football, the systems of international football and how to get through knockout games and penalties.
“So, for me, my preference would be to stick on the path we’ve been on since St George’s Park was built. I know there are people this week who have been called xenophobic. It’s been suggested it borders on racism if you don’t want a foreign coach to be your manager. That isn’t the case whatsoever.
“We have to feel like we’ve got a belief system and a pathway for coaches in our country. We’ve lost a lot by not doing that. So, if we can find an English successor, we should do.”
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