England boss Gareth Southgate hits back at contract talk – ‘They aren’t bothered’

Southgate hails Sterling as England prepare for Poland test

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Gareth Southgate has put talks about a new contract on hold until the end of the autumn claiming the players won’t care who is manager after the next World Cup. FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has made no secret of the organisation’s desire to extend his current contract which runs until the tournament in Qatar in December 2022.

After reaching the semi-finals in the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 UEFA Nations League, this summer’s Euro 2020 final appearance has heightened that desire.

Southgate, though, was cagey when it was suggested that ongoing uncertainty about his future may cause a distraction among the England squad.

“I wouldn’t think the players could care less!” he said. “They aren’t bothered who the manager is at club or country. One comes; one goes. The next one is appointed and they get on with it.

“So, no, it’s not a distraction in any way shape or form.

“I’ve got 14 months and if you can get through 14 weeks as a manager you have done well so it really isn’t an issue.

“I enjoy working with the team and I would imagine that we won’t even discuss that until after the autumn now.”

Southgate is a firm believer that England managerial changes should ideally occur after major tournaments and has made no secret of his desire to return to club management at some point of his career.

He believes his stint in the Premier League with Middlesbrough in 2006 came too early on his managerial learning curve for him to have been able to make the most of it.

With the Qatar World Cup coming mid-season for most of the European leagues, it could be a period of unprecedented transition in club football and, at 51, it could be the perfect time for him to prove himself in the domestic game.

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England should not be scared of Robert Lewandowski – Harry Kane is more than capable of doing a number on him.

The Poland legend was missing when the Three Lions narrowly edged past tonight’s opponents at Wembley in March but will be leading the line in Warsaw hoping to dent England’s perfect five-wins-out-of-five start to qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

But while Gareth Southgate has warned his players to be wary of any player with 72 goals from 124 internationals, the England manager knows his side have just as potent a weapon of their own.

Reflecting on the 2-1 win against Poland in March – when it took a late winner from Harry Maguire to see England through even without the injured Lewandowski in the visiting side – Southgate admitted they would be an even tougher proposition this time around.

“Any team is going to miss a player of that calibre and we know that he is one of the best finishers in European football,” Southgate said.

“We’ve got to prepare for what he brings to the team, but also we know that they have other strong players and they gave us a really good game at Wembley that night to push us right to the end.

“Yes, we prepare some specifics around Lewandowski, but it’s the whole team we’ve got to be ready for.”

“That said, I see a lot of comparables with Lewandowksi and Kane in the way they come deeper, receive play, play team-mates in play those excellent passes as well as their finishing capabilities and their range of finishing.

“There are without doubt similarities and they are forwards at the top of their game.

“When you’re preparing to play an opponent you have to pay that little bit more attention to their individual attributes because your defenders have got to be aware and ready for that challenge.”

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