Gareth Southgate has taken on the monumental challenge of entering the England dugout. Some say the role is a poisoned chalice, while others claim it’s a job of a lifetime. Whatever the opinion, the 46-year-old knows that he will have to be flawless on and off the field to avoid the scrutiny of his predecessors.
The majority of the managers have managed to sail through qualifying campaigns to reach either the World Cup or the Euros, but dragging England into the latter stages of the competitions has always been the issue. Sir Bobby Robson almost succeeded in Italia 90 by reaching the semi-finals, only to be defeated by Germany on penalties, while Terry Venables suffered the same fate in Euro 96.
Since then men with impressive records at club level have failed to shine with the Three Lions, with managers such as Fabio Capello and Kevin Keegan notably struggling to deliver on the big stage.
Steve McClaren, Roy Hodgson and Capello all came under extreme fire for England’s recent failings, spurning a great deal of talent. Southgate must somehow overcome the rigours of the job and more importantly hit the ground running to ensure that England qualify for the 2018 World Cup, with the Three Lions backed in the latest international football betting odds at 1/66 to reach the finals in Russia.
The first task at hand for the 46-year-old is to enjoy a solid start and in his spell in temporary charge his side performed well, notching wins over Malta and Scotland, while drawing away against Slovenia. The Three Lions threw away a two-goal lead against a weakened Spain outfit in the only blemish thus far, but Southgate is not the only man to enjoy himself at the beginning of his reign.
Hodgson enjoyed a strong start to his tenure with the Three Lions, losing just once in his opening 11 matches. Unfortunately for him the defeat came in the first knockout round of Euro 2012, with England crashing out of the competition on penalties against Italy after playing out a goalless draw in normal time. In the early days of his reign there was hope that the country could compete, but that was extinguished after their failure at the 2014 World Cup.
McClaren also enjoyed a decent opening to his reign as his side hammered Greece and Andorra in his first two matches. The Three Lions battled to victory over Macedonia on the road in their Euro 2008 qualifier, but the cracks began to appear towards the end of the year, drawing at home in the reverse fixture, while Croatia claimed a 2-0 victory to inflict the first defeat of McClaren’s reign. The former Middlesbrough boss would last only a year in the role before being sacked for the failure to reach the Euros.
The path ahead is far from certain for Southgate given his inexperience as a manager. Even McClaren enjoyed success during his time with Boro, leading them to the UEFA Cup final and a League Cup triumph whereas Southgate suffered relegation with the North-East outfit. Early results are hardly an indicator of long-term success as proven by Hodgson’s ill-fated reign, but for the 46-year-old any other than qualification for the World Cup will end his tenure as it did to one of his predecessors.