England manager Gareth Southgate wasn’t a unanimous choice when he over the reins from Sam Allardyce. Overseeing Middlesbrough’s relegation weighed heavily down on his curriculum vitae.
The Three Lions’ inspired march to the World Cup semi finals has fully redeemed his reputation.
Exactly how did Southgate rediscover his mojo?
1- Poaching Steve Holland: Getting the correct support staff is vital for managerial success.
Southgate therefore achieved a major transfer coup when he convinced Holland to leave a similar role at Chelsea where he had helped Jose Mourinho win the 2015 Premier League title to become his assistant.
2- Building meritocracy: Nothing better gets players juices flowing than playing club and national team football in full knowledge that putting in one good shift after another is noticed by powers that be.
This has transformed England into a competitive side in which all players give their all for the manager.
3- Cutting team’s average age: England’s World Cup squad was one of the three youngest at Russia 2018 along with Nigeria’s Super Eagles and France’s Les Bleus.
Fielding a youthful outfit worked a treat for England because recovery time in a tournament setting is minimal.
4- Handing Harry Kane the captaincy: After experimenting with rotating the skipper’s armband, Southgate settled for Tottenham forward Kane as his in pitch leader.
The North London goal machine rewarded him by netting six times to become England’s first World Cup top scorer since Gary Lineker at Mexico 86.
5- Meticulous preparation: Southgate never left anything to chance by arranging high profile build up matches against Germany, Spain, Italy and Brazil, who between them have won the World Cup on 14 occasions.
Remaining unbeaten after playing all four was a massive psychological boost.
6- Demystifying penalties: Southgate helped his Three Lions end their World Cup penalty hoodoo by teaching them that spot kicks are nothing but a skill under pressure.
This came in handy in the blood and thunder round of 16 victory over belligerent Colombia.
7- Sticking by Raheem Sterling: Worries the Sterling bogey was about to be used as an excuse emerged before and during the World Cup.
First, he was blamed for joining camp late, then chided for profligacy. Anyone pointing to Sterling as an excuse for England’s failure to walk away with top honours only has to study Olivier Giroud’s contribution to France’s World Cup success.
8- Switching to back three: Adopting a 3-5-2 allowed England to play to their strengths in a self contained system.
Both wing backs Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young are in Fifa’s official World Cup best eleven because the system allowed them to thrive.
Fielding Trippier and Kyle Walker in the same line up was especially brilliant.
Overall, with confidence at an all time high, the building blocks are now in place for the Three Lions to flourish at major tournaments. With Southgate in charge, they should have a real stab at Euro 2020.