Southgate warms to England task with view to delivering knock-out punch

January 3 – New England manager Gareth Southgate says he would love to be the man to end the country’s record as the great under-achievers despite having a squad full of Premier League millionaire footballers.

The 1966 World Cup winners have since failed to make much impact at a succession of major tournaments but Southgate is relishing trying to reverse that trend.

“We’re 13th in the world rankings and at the last two tournaments we haven’t got through a knockout game,” Southgate, named as full-time manager in November after a four-match interim period in charge, told the BBC.

“There are some obstacles we have to overcome but for me that’s a great opportunity and the potential is huge.

“I don’t have any fear in what lies ahead because I’m just seeing what’s possible. How do we go to being the number one team in the world? We’ve got to deliver, we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to work intelligently. I’m looking at what’s achievable, I’m not thinking about anything else.”

After a poor 2014 World Cup England flopped dismally at Euro 2016, leading to the resignation of manager Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson’s replacement Sam Allardyce lasted only 67 days as a result of a newspaper sting and although he was handed the job almost by default Southgate is unbeaten in four games after being promoted from within the England setup.

“When I was playing, we went into tournaments as one of the favourites, and over the last few years we’ve been going in hope rather than as one of the top-ranked teams,” said Southgate.

“Tournaments will always be at the end of the season so we have to get the physical load right in the way we train, maintain fitness levels at the highest possible but also maintain freshness.

“The mental peaking is key and there are things we can work on to help that develop. Mental resilience is generally a product of the experiences you have been through in your life and some of those will be on the sports field and some outside of sport.”

Southgate, who won 57 England caps as a player, suggested there was a correlation between young players who think they have made it because of huge wages and lack of leadership at senior national level.

“The concern is for any young player at an academy, who’s not quite made it in the first team, but thinks they have because you get big money for having achieved nothing.

“If you don’t have that inner drive, there’s a danger you’ll never actually get to be a top professional or be a first-team player. In years to come they could look back and have huge regrets.”

“At different moments you’ve got to have different people take that lead, whether that’s being brave enough to take the ball or talking to the others, getting them mentally back on course.”

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