As a former captain of Aston Villa, Gareth Southgate has more than a passing interest in who manages that particular club.
On Thursday he was at pains to hint that Dean Smith probably didn’t deserve to be sacked while at the same point heralding the return of Steven Gerrard to English football.
It’s not the identity of the new Villa boss that interests Southgate so much, more the nationality. With Eddie Howe joining Newcastle this week, the national boss is keen to see as many English coaches in circulation simply because he would like one of them to inherit his position one day.
Gareth Southgate has one eye towards the future and wants an English boss to succeed him
He was pleased to see Steven Gerrard (L) and Eddie Howe (R) land roles in the Premier League
One of Southgate’s strengths with England is that he sees, cares for and influences a much wider football world than, for example, that which will unfold before him against Albania at Wembley.
The 51-year-old knows that for all the progress made on his five-year watch at the FA, the right person must emerge at some stage to take it all on. And he would like that person to be English.
‘I think we (at the FA) want to be there for young English coaches, any English coaches really,’ Southgate said. ‘Eddie came to our last camp, for example, and we try to keep in contact with them as much as we can.
‘It’s great for them to have opportunities in the Premier League and doing well as we will want five or six English managers who could have this job in the future. That’s got to be part of our succession planning and a desire for England to do well.
Southgate has made a lot of progress but knows the right person must inherit the project
‘I was very disappointed for Dean Smith. He’s done a brilliant job at Aston Villa and he’s an excellent manager, so I wish him well. But it’s nice to see another English manager (Gerrard) in the Premier League as well, and with Eddie going to Newcastle that’s two English managers appointed this week.’
Southgate’s reign with England has been successful and will continue on its trajectory of steady improvement when his team surely take the four points they need to guarantee qualification for the Qatar World Cup from the home and away fixtures with Albania and San Marino.
Equally, his time in charge has served to convince the FA of the widespread benefits of employing a homegrown manager. Southgate, for example, has managed to reconnect the national team with the public in a way Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson never managed to do. He also has an understanding of the wider responsibilities that accompany the role in the modern age.
He said he wanted to support young managers like Gerrard who might one day succeed him
The manager himself is expected to sign a new contract once qualification for next winter’s finals is secured and that was endorsed – not surprisingly – by captain Harry Kane on Thursday.
‘I think I speak for a lot of players but personally I get on well with the manager,’ said Kane. ‘He has been great and his record at international level speaks for itself. And I still feel we are improving as a team. Semi-final in the World Cup, final in the Euros – we are heading in the right direction.
‘Of course I would love him to stay but it will come down to him and the FA and his personal decision. We will see how that goes.’
Almost inevitably there has been a slight levelling off in England’s performances since they lost the final of the European Championship. Kane himself spoke of tiredness. The hamster’s wheel of international and domestic football spins ever faster and without pause these days.
Southgate is expected to get a new contract soon and Harry Kane has given him his backing
Southgate’s team won well in Hungary in September but draws in Poland and, most surprisingly of all, at home to Hungary last month mean qualification for Qatar cannot be secured until Monday in San Marino – assuming Andorra do not beat Poland on Friday night.
This should only be a minor inconvenience. Only defeat on Friday night would lead England towards problems. Poland could draw level on points by winning in Andorra and, in all likelihood, take over at the top of Group I on goal difference. Poland host Hungary on Monday in their last game.
Friday night’s opposition will be game. Albania have improved and beaten Hungary home and away since the summer. But England playing at anywhere near full throttle should not realistically struggle in front of a capacity crowd. The calendar year began with empty stadia, and thankfully much has changed since then.
He is looking forward to performing in front of a home crowd at Wembley against Albania
Southgate will hope that will be more reminiscent of what took place in the summer than last month’s effort against Hungary. ‘We’ve had some incredible nights already at Wembley this year,’ he said.
‘We started with nobody in the ground so for us to finish it with a full house shows the progress the team have made, the connection back with the fans and the fact life is returning to normal as well.
‘It is an amazing level of support we get when you look around the other teams in Europe and we want to put on a performance that sends people home happy.’