FA views Southgate as a ‘strong candidate’ for England

Joe Williams

Gareth Southgate has been told the Football Association views him as a “strong candidate” to become England manager but chief executive Martin Glenn promised not to rush a decision.

Southgate is the overwhelming favourite to land the job on a permanent basis after going unbeaten in his four-match interim stint.

Having been promoted from the under-21 job following Sam Allardyce’s messy departure, he took seven points from a possible nine in World Cup qualifiers and signed off with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Spain on Tuesday.

Common consensus suggests that when England are next on duty, against Germany and Lithuania in March, Southgate will be in the dugout once again but Glenn has no intention of deviating from the formal selection process.

He will join FA chairman Greg Clarke and technical director Dan Ashworth in anointing the new boss, with League Managers’ Association chief Howard Wilkinson and former international Graeme Le Saux advising.

Assessing Southgate’s candidacy, Glenn said: “I won’t be drawn on leading candidates but Gareth is a really strong candidate and clearly after the last four games his candidacy has become much stronger.

“Not just based on one or two matches, but because of what we’ve seen over the last couple of years. He’s got renewed confidence and is a different manager to what he was two years ago. So it is not all about assessing him on a few games, you have got to see it more in the round.

“We know him and we’ve seen him at close quarters for a couple of years so it helps that he understands how international football works. What we said, however, is that we need to take stock after the four games.

“There is quite a long gap between now and the next England game in March, so we’ve got time. We will ask Gareth to review in detail the last four games and give him a bit of time to do that because that is part of the process.

“We will take a bit of time to reflect, but hopefully not too long. It’s important that we build the right platform for success in the future. We just need to weigh up all the facts and take the time to make the right decision.”

Southgate has been coy over his words for the majority of his time in the spotlight, careful not to appear too eager or pressure his employers into action.

But it is now clear that he wants the job and to continue the work he has started, a fact hardly disguised by his quips about knowing which parking space he will be allocated at St George’s Park.

At this stage a return to the under-21s appears unlikely, and a top club job may appeal if the FA spring a surprise.

“I want to manage big matches and I have proved I can do that,” he said.

“Wherever it is going to be I would like to be coaching for a period of time. That is going to require some different challenges at different times, I guess.

“I am determined to manage at the highest level possible, club, country, home or abroad. Whatever it may be. Experiences like this are a big part of that journey.

“I had no idea what it would feel like but I feel immensely proud. They have been terrific games to be involved with – especially the two this week, which were fantastic occasions but completely different challenges.”

After the highs of the British derby and a glamour game against Spain, Southgate’s immediate future is rather more prosaic.

Asked what his next steps would be, he said: “I have got a few days off then quite a few meetings next week already in the diary at St George’s Park.

“I have just got to debrief the camp with Dan (Ashworth) and I am guessing I am going to be asked my views on lots of different things by whoever is involved in what happens next. But that is as much as I know.”

Despite Glenn’s insistence that a wide ranging process would be taken on the next boss he also suggested 90 minutes and three unanswered goals against neighbours Scotland last week could tip the scales for Southgate.

“Undoubtedly out of the four games Gareth has looked after, the Scotland game was the most critical,” he said.

“With respect, we expected to beat Malta and we then got a decent result in Slovenia but Scotland was just one of those games, because it is a local derby, where the form book goes out of the window. It was good to win so well and by such a wide margin, with some clinical finishing. It was a great feeling to get three points further on the qualification path.”