Gareth Southgate has steered England all the way to the final
What this England team is doing is very special and that’s even if we don’t win on Sunday.
This is a group of players growing as a team and a squad and a lot of what they they have achieved so far at Euro 2020 is because of the spirit of the camp and every single player, even if they’re the ones that have not been playing at all – Champions League winners like Ben Chilwell – are on board.
Tactically, Gareth Southgate has got it absolutely right and shown his strength and character too. Everyone says he is a nice guy and he is but to take Jack Grealish off the other day – to substitute a substitute – is a big call and he was prepared to do it. He has shown what is needed, that the team always comes first. I think every aspect of what he’s tried to implement as a coach through this tournament has worked for him.
Normally in the last 10 minutes of an England game we’re sitting on the edge of our seats and we’re worried. Make no mistake, Denmark are a team that could have pinned us back and caused us problems. Instead we kept the ball for over two minutes with 50, 60 passes and saw the game out so professionally.
Previously we’ve looked at other teams and admired that over the years, whether it was a Spain or France or Brazil. This was an England side doing that to another team and saying “you can’t get the ball off us”. I don’t think people have noted that as much because we’ve got carried away with the win. That to me was a significant step forward in what this England team are doing. It was a wonderful sight to see.
It’s not always easy though. I’ve been a manager at international level and sometimes you have to let yourself go.
Against Denmark, Gareth went away from the team and went to the fans to let himself go. He let himself go for a minute or two and that was his personal time. I’m sure when he got back in his room on his own he gave himself a pat on the back and said to himself “actually, I got that right”.
As a manager you don’t say it publicly because you don’t need to, because people will tell you when you’re wrong and tell you when you’re right. That’s a moment you have as a manager and I’m sure that if he’s having a nice afternoon tea he’ll be thinking that way.
There’s always been a bit of a battle between the press and the team in this country over the years and every tournament it’s grown and got bigger and that wall has got a bit wider and taller. Until now. Gareth and these players have broken it down.
It comes back to the players having the education as young players that we didn’t have about dealing with the media. When you play at international level, particularly with England, the pressure of the media is phenomenal and it always has been. It has been a burden but this team have embraced it and turned it and made it a stepping stone to go on. They’ve embraced the nation.
When you hear players say now ‘we’re fans too’, we were never saying that. We were players playing for our country but we would have never said ‘we’re fans at the end of the day and we want England to do as well as any of you in the pubs or on the terraces’. It’s been wonderful how they’ve turned that around.
It won’t be an easy match but we’ve got to be positive and let’s face it, there’s going to be 60,000 people at Wembley and you can’t ask for more than that. There’s pressure, yes, but imagine us going to Rome to play this final in front of 60,000 Italians there – that would be a difficult task. That’s what Italy have got to face.
There will be some Italians in there, but if that atmosphere is what it’s been like for the last two games, England have a massive advantage. If they win it the roof will come off.
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