Former England striker Alan Shearer believes Gareth Southgate’s ability to engender a strong team spirit while still showing his “nasty” side has been key to their success.
Both elements were on display in the 2-1 extra time Euro 2020 victory over Denmark, which secured a first major final in 55 years.
The side came from behind having conceded their first goal of the tournament and, having got in front, Southgate then made a tactical change and took off crowd favourite Jack Grealish just 36 minutes after he had come on as a second-half substitute.
“You have to given the manager credit, he’s the one that creates the team spirit,” Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It’s very difficult to do that when you have a squad of 26 players and for those players who are not in the starting line-up it doesn’t mean they are not absolutely devastated they are not on the pitch.
“A lot of the country was shouting for Jack Grealish to start but Gareth has resisted that.
“He put him on last night to try to change the game and then when England scored the second goal he takes Grealish off and leaves Sterling on who is absolutely shattered.
“There is a nasty side to Gareth and he was spot-on to do that but you can’t tell me Jack Grealish isn’t angry, hurt and disappointed.
“The manager now has to go and manage that and get everyone together again and say: ‘Put your individual feelings to one side’.”
Southgate endured his own personal England heartbreak as a player at Euro 96 when his failure in the penalty shoot-out against Germany saw them miss out on the final.
While he has played down the redemption element to this current run, former teammate Tony Adams believes it has been important for the 50-year-old to enjoy some success.
“Weirdly I texted him the other day, to say congratulations, because I felt so proud to be his pal,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“He came back with a beautiful answer. He said: ‘Thank God my mum and dad don’t have to put up with all that pain any more.’
“He was more concerned about his family – the amount of stick they’ve taken down the years – that they actually can put it behind them and forget that.
“And he’s making a new story, making a new path for these new young players. Most of them weren’t born when he missed that penalty.”
The praise continued for Southgate with another ex-teammate Darren Anderton saying it was well deserved.
“This is the toughest manager’s job in the world, it really is, and it doesn’t seem to faze him,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“Whether we have a result like we did last night or beating Germany 2-0, which is obviously close to his heart after what we all went through 25 years ago, or if we have a poor performance like we did against Scotland – he doesn’t get carried away either way.
“It’s just great to see him enjoy this success because he really does deserve it.”
Ex-England midfielder Peter Reid, who played at the 1986 World Cup, was impressed by how Southgate has handled himself.
“The manager has been absolutely outstanding. He’s had pressure on him, stuck to his guns,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“What he’s done is made our national team into like a club side in spirit and nothing gets to him. There’s pressure on them, being at home, massive pressure, and they’ve handled it.”
Reid’s former teammate Peter Shilton was sceptical about Southgate’s appointment back in 2016 but is happy to admit the former Middlesbrough boss has proved him wrong.
“When he took over I said I wasn’t sure his credentials matched the job but he’s proven me and a lot of people wrong. He’s grown into the job, set out principles,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Former England winger Chris Waddle said for all the celebrations last night the focus quickly had to turn to Sunday’s final opponents Italy.
“No-one wins a tournament with brilliant performances and no luck,” he told Radio 5 Live.
“We have to win it now, it’s feet back on the ground this morning. Everyone enjoyed it last night but now we have to come up against one of the most experienced teams in world football in Italy.”
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