Gareth Southgate has admitted that having two years left on his contract will not protect him from the sack if England flop at the World Cup this winter.
Southgate, whose deal runs until December 2024 and hosts that year’s European Championship, is coming under mounting pressure before England end their disastrous Nations League campaign by hosting Germany in Wembley on Monday evening. The manager was booed by his own fans after his side’s 1-0 loss to Italy in Milan last Friday, a result that relegated the Euro 2020 finalists to second place in the Nations League, and the The 52-year-old knows his future could hinge on what happens in Qatar this winter.
“I’m not stupid,” Southgate said. “My only objective at the moment is to prepare the team for tomorrow, then we focus on a good performance and a good result. I know that at the end of the day I will be judged on what happens in this Cup. of the world.
“Contracts are irrelevant in football because managers can have three, four or five year contracts and you accept that, if the results are not good enough, it’s time to part ways. Why would I I’m not arrogant enough to think my contract is going to protect me in any way.
England went five games without a competitive win for the first time since 1992 and have not scored a goal from open play for 450 minutes. Lack of creativity has become a huge problem and Southgate, who are expected to stick to a 3-4-3 system against Germany, were being realistic when it was pointed out that they continue to have the firm backing of the Football Association.
“I’m absolutely grateful for that,” he said. “But we understand how the mood changes with the results and has changed. I am realistic about it and I will be judged on what we do in Qatar and I am perfectly happy to be judged that way. History is history and you are judged on the next game and the next tournament.
Southgate, who could start Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier in the wing-back positions and recall John Stones in central defence, could do without the Wembley crowd which would turn against Germany. He has gathered supporters behind him since becoming manager six years ago, but the public mood is starting to change.
“Part of the reason we’ve been successful in tournaments is the feeling of unity,” Southgate said. “We can’t succeed with fans against us, or you don’t feel warm towards us. It’s harder if we have to fight with the opposition and then fight with things on our own island. We alone we can rectify that through performance and results.
Southgate has examined the relationship between the press and the England manager. “I’ve been in football for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve seen almost everything. I saw the cycle of war with the media. I’ve seen absolute love and we’re somewhere in the middle of it – or maybe not quite in the middle. It’s fascinating to watch from my side and it’s a life experience that I knew at some point would probably come with this job.
The spotlight isn’t just on Southgate. Many of England’s most important figures disappointed and Raheem Sterling said the players needed to improve.
“The results weren’t good enough and we have to take responsibility,” said the Chelsea striker. “I know there’s been a lot about Gareth and what he’s done – formations and so on – but at the end of the day the performances haven’t been good. As a collective we have to fix that.
Sterling scored the opening goal as England beat Germany 2-0 in the last 16 of Euro 2020. He knows how quickly things can change. The 27-year-old striker has pointed out that he used to dread going on international duty.
“My mentality was that I just had to focus on myself,” he said.
“It’s definitely something that put me in good stead. It’s a message that can certainly get across with the team here in the next two months. We know there will be noise and we need to block it out if we want to do well.