England’s football fans have been screaming “it’s coming home" for the last 55 years ahead of every major tournament. But every time, their team has ended disappointing them. So much so that the team became the butt of a joke. In recent years though, the Three Lions have given the fans realistic hope and they are in with a serious chance of winning a major trophy after the 1966 World Cup. They are now just one step from laying their hands on Euro 2020 trophy. Only a resurgent Italy stand in front of them late on Sunday night at the Wembley Stadium.
A lot of credit goes to Gareth Southgate, who took charge of the team after the exit in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals following a defeat to unfancied Iceland.
Southgate, a former defender, was the unlikeliest contender to take charge.
He was known more for his failures — missing the penalty in the 1996 Euro semi-final against Germany and coaching a Middlesbrough side to relegation and getting sacked from the position. He also coached the England under-21 that failed to do much.
However, things at the senior level have changed under him. England reached the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup — their first in a major international tournament since Euro 1996 and now they are on the cusp of winning their first-ever Euro.
Southgate isn’t known for his win-at-all-cost attitude and as someone who only wants to see his players win on the football field.
He has encouraged his players to take up social issues like ‘taking the knee’, which is a stance against racial abuse. He is also known to be an empathetic person, someone who can take time off from the delirium of victory and visit the opposition camp to console players as he did to Mateus Uribe, a Colombian player, whose missed penalty had handed England a place in the quarter-finals of 2018 World Cup.
Former Germany player Philipp Lahm has been effusive in his praise of him.
“Southgate has managed to convey to his highly-paid stars that they are not only playing football. He lets them take on social responsibility. That creates an identity," Lahm had written in The Guardian.
“Second, he has made his team believe in his plan, which is: nobody will score against us easily or quickly."
Former England player Gary Neville says Southgate is the right man to guide England.
“It’s the fact I genuinely trust the manager that we’ve got. I genuinely think the players are a good bunch of lads who love playing for England, who have removed all the cynicism and cliques that I was part of for many years with England," he said.