Harry Kane is England’s ‘useless maypole’ and that damns Gareth Southgate

Editor F365
Southgate Kane England
Southgate 'has to play' one England star to help Harry Kane.

Harry Kane and Gareth Southgate continue to be hit with England fan pelters despite getting to a semi-final.

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England, Gareth Southgate and their ‘useless maypole’
I think a lot of the reason for adverse reaction to England getting to a semi-final is that normally it’s fan apathy verging on typically-English pessimism, but this time out Southgate’s own decisions created anger even before things kicked off.

That Southgate has resolved those issues as the tournament progressed hasn’t been met with any positivity, only frustration that they shouldn’t have been problems in the first place.

No more Gallagher starts; we expected that, and only Palace fans have a united opinion that he’s any good. No more Trent in midfield; few expected this to work and many forecast it to be a disaster. Shaw’s come in to add balance; But Southgate chose to only bring one left-back. Mainoo has done well in the middle; well he was the third midfield pairing Southgate tried (and some still push to try a fourth). Konsa and Guehi have been brilliant; Ah well, Southgate didn’t have a choice and actually if he’d benched Maguire a half century earlier they could have proved themselves in the qualifiers….

England are better, but all the positives have been diluted.

Then you get to the questions about the side that are still up for debate, and everyone seems to have wildly different opinions and in that situation Gareth can’t make everyone happy, including one big decision.

For my two cents, I can entirely understand why Gordon has barely played. There’s the rumours about this headspace, but outside of hearsay there is the very salient context of our absentee captain. Without starting Toney or Watkins, I can’t really see the point of Gordon on the field. He’ll skin a full back with ease, but so what; to what end? Saka has been wonderful and he has at no point been able to find our captain in five games; he’s ether actively hiding from the pass like a nervous trialist, or near his own corner flag setting up the opposition (how didn’t that cause more column inches?!).

Ye gods the only players who have set up our captain are a defender who mis-controlled a clearance, and Ivan Toney who Kane is keeping out of the side. Beyond that, there was the utterly free header he couldn’t even get on target against Slovakia, or the header sent straight at the keeper against Serbia. He may not create any opportunities on his own, and his dropping deep actively hinders Foden and Bellingham, and his runs have made it impossible for him to get to Saka and Mainoo cut-backs, but give him a free chance straight in front of goal and…. he has at-best a 50/50 record, which is worse than the xG for those chances.

In this situation I can’t see how Southgate wins. There are still pundits who advocate starting Kane. The squad players have given bland platitudes to the papers, but in terms of the starting 11’s active decisions on the pitch, and as is both quantitively and qualitatively been proven, they are entirely ignoring and passing around the useless maypole and I agree with their assessment.

In using a striker so hopelessly out of form, I can’t see how it’s possible for our to have attractive play rather than sterile domination. In playing without any presence in the box I can’t see the point in daring wing-play. There are genuinely interesting tactical conversations to whether playing Walker to make runs outside, or Trent to make runs inside, is the better option – but if the end result is no-one in the box it’s all a bit pointless.

When there were rumours about 3 at the back, I’d hoped for a 352 and a partner for Kane, but that never happened.

No subs ahead of the 60th minute: so what if your captain is playing pointless hollywood balls from the full-back position. Football is a fairly simple game, and outside of Barca playing the world’s best ever player as a false nine, victory tends to go to the side that’s better in both boxes.

We’re seemingly quite well structured in one, and entirely missing in the other. In that situation, penalties is the likely positive outcome and I can’t really see how Gareth can fix that without making a decision the pundits are advocating he doesn’t make.
Tom G

👉 No Kane or Foden in England teams picked to play the Netherlands
👉 Eusebio, penalties, Germans, Southgate: ranking England’s six previous major tournament semi-finals
👉 Ranked: All of Gareth Southgate’s England subs at Euro 2024, from pointless to actually good


England’s grass-roots revolution should have reaped more
It’s strange how little discourse can be found in this country from paid journalists to offer perhaps a tad more insightful nuance to the pro-Southgate argument that Jonny Nic’s latest article presents – namely that Southgate is doing a great job because his record with England in recent tournament so good compared with England’s overall history.

I don’t mean just revealing the favourable draws Southgate has been handed during his tenure. But also the surrounding circumstances within the England national team set up that coincided with his appointment. In 2010, the FA systemically restructured grass roots football, and has since led to a period of English youth team success never seen before in England’s history. It began bearing fruit in 2017 in the form of 7 combined World Cup/Euros/Toulon Tournoi titles across age groups since then. 2017 also happens to be the year after Southgate took over the senior team.

It should be obvious why this context is important when looking at Southgate’s record. No other England manager in history has presided over a senior team that is being supplied with such a successful conveyor belt of international football experienced players and coaching talent.

If anyone doubts the benefits of youth team success, just look at France and Spain. Prior to 1998 and 2008 respectively, these nations were similar to England: massive footballing nations with a barren historical record of success. They then reformed their grass roots set up that led to winning youth tournaments before translating into success for their senior sides.

Now, if anyone else has been watching the England youth teams down the years – including the Euro winning team of last year which England won against Spain in a final that Cole Palmer scored the winner – the contrast in the playing style of that team with this Euro 2024 team could not be more stark.

So, given both the favourable draws AND this rich supply of resources being provided by England youth teams, it seems that the question which paid journalists with all of their insights and knowledge should be asking publicly is: is Southgate’s record really that impressive?

And also, why hasn’t his deeply pragmatic approach to tournaments at least evolved a little bit over the 8 years since he took over, given England have already proven they can go deep in tournaments with less talented squads and also given in that time more players – and presumably coaches – have graduated from the successful England youth teams playing an expansive and dynamic style of football, thus suggesting it’s really not necessary to treat every game of football as a war of attrition simply because of England’s less than successful pre-2017 history?

My own opinion is that Southgate is frittering away an opportunity of a lifetime to herald a period of English success because he is incapable of properly leveraging the benefits of this new era provided by England’s youth teams, and is paralyzed by the fear of always looking backward at a past that this England team should have moved on from by now – namely an acceptance of getting outplayed as a team by pretty much everyone they come up against, because our record wasn’t that good before World Cup 2018.


This is England
I get the frustration in England have been playing but don’t we always play like this? That top ten England tournament performances list is pretty damning, I don’t think we played particularly well in any of those games. Our best performances that I can remember (Other than the 4-1) have ended in defeat (Argentina ’98, Brazil ’02, France ’22 etc).

I think Shearer wrote the other day that this is England, get used to it. I think he is right, maybe this is the FA vision. At least we keep the ball these days and look reasonably tight at the back. Granted we would all rather not have to sit through 110 minutes of football so dull it makes you want to scratch your eyes out but 10 minutes will be played at a faster pace, and will feature a spectacular ‘moment’. Maybe thats all we need?

It might happen but if we don’t win, I think I’ll be fine with it because we won’t have deserved it. If we do (win) it will be because our defence has done its job and someone has stepped up with something special.

Whoever comes in after GS has to keep the spirit of the team, if they can add some dynamism into our game play then great but this is international football, its never going to be harum scarum like the Prem. We have a young team stacked with the kind of players we used to dream of being able to produce so I think the future is bright (not orange, hopefully) whatever the outcome of the next week.
PS. People need to stop banging on about how we have completed penalties though. The only reason we won that was because I switched off.


More fan mail for John Nicholson
I don’t often read John Nicholson’s articles and have never felt compelled to write in about one. However, even by John’s standards, his defence of Gareth Southgate really is something.

It’s difficult to pinpoint my favourite part. Was it when he attributed the motivation of the growing anti-Southgate narrative to rebellion against the manager’s apparent liberalism? Or was it the grossly offensive assertion that Britain standing against Adolf Hitler was due to “the people’s hatred of foreigners telling us what to do”?

This article really wasn’t about Gareth Southgate, though, it was about John Nicholson. A verbal outpouring of his own insecurities, projected onto the national team manager, conjuring images of Grampa Simpson sitting on the Shelbyville border, rambling about lemons.

Blaming the anti-Southgate rhetoric on little Englanders not wanting a woke manager conveniently forgets the era of “Southgate you’re the one”, sung by waistcoat-wearing England fans. It’s an insult to a supportive fanbase who follow the team around the world and just want a manager who can learn from mistakes and coherently organise arguably the most gifted collection of attacking players in international football into a team who look remotely like scoring.

John wasn’t against those Carling-swilling, Brexit-supporting gammons of England fans in October, when they booed Jordan Henderson for abandoning his principles and going to Saudi Arabia for money. In fact it led to John writing an open letter to Gareth Southgate where he talked about how ‘we want to express our disgruntlement’. John was very much on our side and against Gareth then.

Fast forward ten months and the fans have expressed their disgruntlement again, however this time it’s for purely footballing reasons. It’s against the England manager taking zero fit left backs to a major international tournament, playing a right back in midfield instead of a midfielder, sitting back every time we score and winning one of our last six games (after 90 minutes), despite playing nobody higher than 19th in the FIFA world rankings.

This time John disagrees and therefore the solidarity of ‘we want’ has shifted into ‘you miserable shites’. Charming. It isn’t for me to tell John or anybody else to ‘stick to football’ but his dogged insistence on making absolutely everything to be not about football is so tiring.

Statistics don’t tell entire stories and Gareth Southgate’s international tournament record certainly does not tell his. His record is good and it isn’t his fault that the routes haven’t been harder. However, the bottom line is that they were easy and we have gone out to the first serious team we’ve faced in each of these tournaments, even blowing 1-0 leads against Croatia in 2018 and Italy in 2021. John talks about how previous managers fared worse but they were simply unfortunate enough to encounter our eventual conquerors, like Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Portugal, earlier in tournaments.

I’m a Palace fan and I’ve been subjected to years of this negative management style under Roy Hodgson. We were gaslit at times into fearing change on the grounds of ‘be careful what you wish for’. Yet when we did finally show some courage and brought in Oliver Glasner, every subsequent week made Roy’s prehistoric tactics, inability to pick a functional XI and apparent hatred of proactive substitutions look more ridiculous.

England can have the same progression. We have some genuinely world-class players in our squad who could have lit up this tournament under different circumstances. The FA must now be similarly brave and try to bring somebody in with fresh ideas.

So I’m sorry John, Southgate’s record isn’t enough for me to want him to stay on, or to stop me having an opinion if I think we’ve played badly, and if that makes me a ‘miserable shite’, a ‘dumb keyboard pundit’ or ‘in denial of my own empire guilt’ in your eyes then so be it.
Ed Acteson

👉 No Kane or Foden in England teams picked to play the Netherlands
👉 Eusebio, penalties, Germans, Southgate: ranking England’s six previous major tournament semi-finals
👉 Ranked: All of Gareth Southgate’s England subs at Euro 2024, from pointless to actually good


Another Southgate/Hodgson comparison
A lot of good chat in the mailbox about Southgate, but I can’t help feel that he’s in the mix with a lot of other managers who we thought were doing a good job until their replacement showed that they weren’t.

I’m maybe a bit biased as I’ve been in the “Southgate isn’t good enough” camp since the Croatia semi, but each passing tournament, the nearly moments leave me with a “what if” feeling. He’s done a good job, but England now, legitimately, have as good a squad as we’ve had in ages, and series of kind (ish) draws. I just can’t escape feeling what could have happened with a more astute tactician at the helm.

We’ve seen countless examples of this over the past few years – Hodgson at Palace, replaced by Glasner and the football improves. Bruce at Newcastle, Gerrard at Villa, Atkins at Southampton… I can’t help feel that Southgate is one of those guys.

I hope we manage to do it in the next few days, and I’ll be as delighted as anyone, but I do worry that if we fall short and see an upturn in the next cycle we’ll be ruing these near misses.
James, Sussex (Potter would be a great national team manager, very tactically astute)


Where are those Three Lions?
I don’t want to jinx it, but I haven’t heard Three Lions a single time through this tournament. Maybe I’m not listening to the right radio stations, but has it reached its natural end? Has it finally ebbed away?

I’m one of those guys who loves this song. It’s cheesy as hell and has been played to death in the past, but I love it. It captures what it’s like to be an England supporter more than any other song I’ve ever heard.

It should be the anthem we sing before every match… Let’s face it, our actual national anthem is so bad, we don’t even know when we’re supposed to come in with the vocals. Let’s go with the one that means something.
Phil, Manchester