Is Gareth Southgate ‘too liberal, wet and ghastly’ for you? He wins England games

John Nicholson
England boss Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate celebrates beating Switzerland on penalties.

I’m sorry if this annoys you after England reached a third semi-final out of four, but the numbers tell us Gareth Southgate (an anagram of ‘the goat haters’ – thanks Barney Ronay) is the best manager England have ever had, having won more knock-out games than everyone else put together.

Sorry you miserable sh*tes.

If not him, who? That’s a question you can’t answer with anyone else’s name, because you know there’s hard proof you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been poor; there’s nothing for artistic merit. It makes no sense and you can’t learn why by any amount of thoughtful podcasts or tactical studies. Football is chaos. Don’t try and fight it with logic.

Gareth is a building society loan consultant, sensible and nice who never comes home drunk to be sick in a drawer. Whatever it is that he does, it works better than anything else has. These are the facts and are not changed by the childish insults.

If you want to say he’s got the best players at his disposal, you are deliberately forgetting he got his numbers with the world-beating talents of Harry Maguire, who you think isn’t good enough, as well as the quite-good-but-not-great Ashley Young, Ryan Bertrand, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Fabian Delph, Danny Rose, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Danny Ings, Mason Mount and Kieran Trippier and quite a few others.

Crafting results out of that lot deserves praise, not anger. Is it any surprise we haven’t won anything with that army of talent? This gets ignored by critics of course, in an endless revisionist reappraisal of history. Ignore the facts, just listen to all that wokeness, wasting all that talent.

👉 16 Conclusions on England beating Switzerland: drop Foden and Kane, Southgate subs, Saka phenomenal
👉 Gary Lineker is now the story and we must learn to disagree with him
👉 Southgate out, Lampard in? Kane was ‘worse than Ronaldo’ but England can win the whole thing

That’s not to say this tournament has been without mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. You can’t point to a manager who doesn’t.

To a point, football is a crapshoot, full of luck, misfortune and happenstance, with only a small chance to make a positive impact. True, Gareth has struggled with that but so has absolutely every other England manager and most other international managers. He’s not a terrible departure from the mean.

So he might not have played that person that would have made all the difference. Yeah, we know. Shut up. That’s always such a cop-out, because you never have to prove it. A get-out-of-jail-free card for the dumb keyboard pundit. Don’t mistake hindsight for wisdom, being narrow-minded for breadth of vision.

The Southgate hate is because of a false assumption England are capable of more, when they clearly are not. I don’t know how many times they have to show us the truth before it’s accepted as fact. How pleading do Phil Foden’s eyebrows have to get? You can’t blame Gareth for their inability in an England shirt.

And let’s be honest, Gareth represents a type that certain people hate. And they, ironically, follow England, forever in denial of their own empire guilt, looking back to a time when Britain (by which they really mean England) was great.

Not alpha enough. Too liberal, wet and ghastly. They have to ignore the facts to sustain the anger, because it suggests being mild-mannered and empathetic is successful. God forbid being nice beats nasty. Nasty gets very angry at that. If only we were more nasty. That’s what we need. His neck just isn’t thick enough like a real man’s.

But carrying on a foetid culture war against him is stupid, moronic and tin-eared. It’s a war that just last week was massively lost by people who want life to be like it’s 1957. Well it isn’t, and it never will be no matter how much you bleat about political correctness and dress like a nicotine-stained faced Man at C&A in 1978. That’s not common sense, it’s a flag for stupidity, extremism and ignorance hiding in plain sight.

For 50 years, the hard of thinking have repeated the same complaints, like it’s the first time and their wisdom is unimpeachable. They should be ignored and its worst proponents mocked. If you think we can do better, yeah well, we haven’t yet and everyone else has been worse so far, so why would you cast him aside if he doesn’t want to go, even though you couldn’t blame him if he did. Don’t you want to be in a semi-final? Does it offend your precious sense of aesthetics? Do you want to cede the game because of our limited style?

Hitler thought the British could be appeased because there was support for fascism throughout society, right up to the Royal Family. He misjudged the people’s hatred of foreigners telling us what to do, but the country has always had about 20% who are comfortable with an extreme, ‘shoot-them-on-the-beaches’ right-wing view, we’ve all met them, and so don’t be surprised if it raises its head in football and in the view of the England manager.

Remember, you might not like it, but this is as good as it has ever got. That’s not an opinion, that’s just counting. It might be not exceptional but it wasn’t better in the past, it was much, much worse. There wasn’t a golden age, so don’t judge anyone against your invented history, or against what you assume should happen, but doesn’t. Everyone has said it before, don’t think your view is original or unique, and it will only make you unhappy.

Accept the bad times, they are certainly not a symbol of decline from a lofty peak, because we have never really occupied one in the modern era. Celebrate the good times, don’t take them for granted, enjoy the joy. It might be a long time gone.

👉 16 Conclusions on England beating Switzerland: drop Foden and Kane, Southgate subs, Saka phenomenal
👉 Gary Lineker is now the story and we must learn to disagree with him
👉 Southgate out, Lampard in? Kane was ‘worse than Ronaldo’ but England can win the whole thing