So you want Gareth gone… but who replaces Southgate as England manager?

Editor F365
Gareth Southgate before England's friendly against Scotland.
Gareth Southgate before England's friendly against Scotland.

The Mailbox demands to know who everyone expects to take over from Gareth Southgate. Also: Harry Maguire; the Man Utd talent drain; and a defence of Kai Havertz.

Get your views in to


Who, if not Gareth?
As usual when England play there’s a resounding call to arms for the FA to get rid of Sir Gareth of Southgate but there seems to never be a suggestion of who should take over. I’m genuinely interested in what the mailbox thinks because I don’t have an answer. Gareth worked his way up through the ranks and I like that idea of the manager being around the younger internationals and moving up almost with them but if Lee Carsley is the answer I’m entirely sure I’m asking the right question.

I used to enjoy when people were screaming for Arteta to be sacked and Conte should be appointed instead because it allowed me to ‘skip to the end’ as they clearly had no idea what they were talking about but were just seduced by what they considery a big name (don’t get me wrong there’s a right club for a manager like Conte but that is not this current version of AFC) so it will be fascinating to find out what people think England need to play the type of football they think this squad is capable of.

Honestly I don’t have a clue, I do think Southgate is now hindering the team with his determination to not lose first and win second mentality but equally I think his role in getting England to the point of oh so nearly winning a major competition alongside his work with the team off the pitch has been massively downplayed but I don’t know who could replace him. At times I look enviously at the Women’s National team and Sabrina Weigman who really does seem to have it all when it comes to player management, tactical know how and the ability to make cold decisions when needed but I’m not sure the general football public/media/players are quite in a place where they’d treat a woman in charge of the mens team with the respect they’d deserve.
Lee AFC Bristol


Tipping point
I’ve broadly been supportive of Southgate as international football is a bit more complex than picking all your best players and his work to build a cohesive team on and off the field has been impressive. I would like to see him take the handbrake off a bit more, but I can see the rationale of being hard to beat generally being successful in tournament football.

That support broke with the Ukraine selection. You can’t explain not picking Foden in central midfield “as he doesn’t play there for City” (while ignoring all the times he does, including a Champions League final), and then pick central midfielder Madison and play him left wing. Or picking non playing Maguire. And morality aside, what was the point of picking Henderson, who will be 34 during the Euros? There is nothing new to learn from him playing and there are better players that can play instead of someone that wasn’t a first choice player for Liverpool last season. This flawed logic and nonsense justifications that Southgate used during the international break were too much for me. My support for him is gone now.

This brings me back to Maguire, There’s an alternative reality where he moved to West Ham and their more old fashioned tactics suit his strengths (no high line, less playing out from the back etc) and away from the Manchester United media spotlight he rebuilds his confidence and gets back into the England team on merit.

This seems far more preferable than Maguire holding out for a pay off from United to leave (was it worth it Harry?), staying and being 5th/6th choice CB, so the scrutiny and mocking continue. Then Southgate picks him out of loyalty (to the detriment of the team) to help rebuild his confidence and it backfires spectacularly with a disappointing draw and an Own Goal.

According to Southgate it’s all the fans’ fault for destroying his confidence. A good manager should be able to see beyond a player’s pride/stubbornness/ego etc and make a decision that’s best for them and the team. Like a boxing trainer throwing in the towel so they can fight again, Southgate needs to protect Maguire, not let him continue hurting himself.

Ultimately this is Southgate’s fault for continuing to pick Maguire, while he is bereft of confidence, and Maguire’s fault for being too stubborn/money grabbing to move on from United and rebuild his career elsewhere. They should both be held to account rather than blaming the fans.
Andy D. Manchester. MCFC.


Not the messiah
So here we go again… It’s been a little while since I last remember it happening, but we are back on the train, engines roaring as we go steaming past “Reality Station” – The Messiah Complex is back with a vengeance, and the chosen one is Bellingham.

Now, I get it. I really do. I’ve been around the sun a good few times now. I’ve seen England flatter to deceive with numerous Golden Generations. I’ve seen them fall at many tournament hurdles manned by the likes of Die Mannschaft, the Winking Portuguese, Ronaldinho, Zidane and Mbappe inspired French teams, The Mighty Vikings of Iceland, The Hand of God… Or not even get to tournaments in the 1st place because of crazy referring decisions – did I not like that !!! And it’s been a loooooooong time since the Senior Men’s team had proper tournament success (Le Tournoi does NOT count, and shout out to the Women and Youth Teams !!) that us as fans, driven by the media, perhaps unfairly expected.

But…. But… BUT !!! This habit pinning success on a single individual – The Messiah – is not good. It is counterproductive, and heaps pressure on one individual in what is clearly a team game. Once in a generation a talent comes from the heavens who CAN handle this – Pele… Cruyff… Maradona… Zidane (Hmmm… Head-butt ? Maybe not)… Messi… But generally it is too huge an expectation for a normal human being, and leads to fans and media turning on the individual when they cannot do the impossible, or embarking on crazy behaviour like praying over newspaper cut-outs of injured body parts hoping for an impossible healing of said injury (which a true Messiah would manage, by the way!). Gazza… Beckham… Owen… Rooney… We’ve been here before people.

We have a really, REALLY talented team at the moment, who could… COULD… achieve great things. Kane… Saka… Rashford… Foden… Rice… Walker… Shaw… Stones… TAA… etc. It’s an enviable list of world-class talent we have. But let us not believe that success can only happen by Bellingham’s hand, and if it doesn’t happen it will be his fault. Support and protect our team, and take the setbacks with the team. Let’s not single out the Messiah when it transpires he CAN’T turn water into wine.
Phil (MUFC) Hampshire – Yes, I’m a Cockney Red. And yes, I AM f****** excited by how good Bellingham is !!!


Southgate’s Maguire addiction
As highly paid professionals representing their country, criticism of Southgate and Maguire’s performance is fair game. The fact that Southgate took it upon himself to vigorously defend Maguire only made it worse.

Too many mailboxers were supporting them with ‘what-ifs’ or claiming Maguire is a great centre back. But no what-if is going to make Maguire a great centre-back. He makes the whole team worse.

The modern game is more of a team game than it ever was. If you want to win games, you need to keep the opposition on the back foot and prevent their ability to attack, and the best way to do that is to press. To press properly requires compressing the space between the back and front of your team. It requires a higher defensive line. But Maguire is constantly standing 5 yards behind the rest of the defensive line, gradually pulling the whole defence back, bit by bit. This creates more space in the middle that the opponents can use to pass around the press and makes the midfield work much harder, preventing them from setting up attacks and tiring them out quicker. All so that Maguire can make up for his lack of speed – and now confidence. When Southgate brought him on at halftime against Scotland, it opened up the game. In the goal Maguire concedes, we can see he was already 5 yards behind the rest of his team, which forced the rest of the defence to turn and chase back. Without Maguire the last man could have walked a few feet forward and caught Scotland off-side.

When we wonder why England plays badly against better opposition, the natural talk is about how our midfield is not as technically competent or wax on about the passing skills of the opponents. But it is because Maguire is pulling the team down. It’s why Southgate initially played a back three with Walker on the right of the three and two defensive midfielders – to make up for Maguire. Without Maguire, England’s full-backs have more opportunity to push forward, press the opponents full-backs to defend because they have less to worry about behind them. We have enough competent CBs that we don’t have to drag the whole team back by including Maguire.

It’s also why Ten Hag doesn’t fancy Maquire. He knows he makes the whole team less capable going forward. United are already getting overrun in midfield.

So sure, defend any personal attacks on them both but let’s not kid ourselves that Southgate playing Maguire is anything other than a tactical own-goal. And that Southgate’s vigorous defending of Maquire was more about defending himself than the player.
Paul McDevitt


Backlash to the Maguire backlash
The backlash to the backlash over Harry Maguire this week has done my head in. This has been treated as if it’s similar to the Dominic Calvert Lewin situation where he got booed by his own fans on his return from long term injury for going off with a fractured cheekbone.

The outpouring of sympathy for Maguire as if he’s been hard done by is astonishing.

Ironically, the issue has come to the forefront only because he had another calamity moment. Firstly, it wasn’t unlucky, because a competent defender would have reacted quicker. Secondly, it wasn’t because he was being jeered that he scored an own goal, because he’s been doing that for years. So many times he gets away with it. A sympathetic yellow card instead of a red, or VAR ignoring him hauling attackers to the ground.

The issue is that these days, you can’t call a spade a spade and just say it like it is. And what it is – is that he’s just quite a shit footballer. There, I said it. The issue is, all the pundits and media do their best to tiptoe around saying anything negative. Anytime anyone is playing absolutely dreadfully, they say ‘he looks like he’s carrying an injury’. Why do you think Roy Keane gets so many clicks in today’s society? Because he’s one of the only ones who tells it like it is.

Harry Maguire isn’t being mocked unfairly. He’s literally the most expensive defender in the history of world football, on £190k a week, and he makes howler after howler.

It’s not a one off. If it was it would be harsh. Yes. If you look up a compilation of his mistakes, I guarantee you there’d be about 10 jawdropping ones that you have forgotten about. And yet, on BBC, 58% of people voted that he is being unfairly treated.

Everyone who has defended him this week (also by sprinkling a bit of sugar on his already inflated ego and saying ‘he’s a very very good player’… He’s not), let me ask you a question, what was supposed to happen? He comes on, polite round of applause, scores an own goal, gets a pat on the back and gets applauded off? Madness.

Where’s the outpouring of sympathy for the other England centre backs who can’t get a look in? Where’s the clamouring for Ten Hag’s head because he (apparently stupidly) doesn’t rate Maguire?

To think we’re currently living in a world where we cannot come out and just say that a footballer, on £190,000 a week who is a complete liability every game he plays, is crap… It doesn’t bode well for the future.
Gerard, Belfast


Where talent goes to die
In defence of Harry Maguire – he’s not that bad a player. There was a time when if you wanted an English colossus at the back who could move out of defence with the ball at his feet and break the lines then HazMag (as no one called him) was the man.

Those criticising and defending him are missing the wider point. No footballer is an Island (insert your own Maguire joke here) but rather they exist within teams and structures. Compare Andy Robertson’s career post Hull with Maguires and then compare Liverpool as a club to Manchester United.

As a Manchester City fan it gives me no pleasure to give Liverpool praise but compared to United they are a club who seem to know what they are doing and do it well. United just aren’t a serious club and whilst it’s tempting to throw the Glazers under the golf cart they don’t do the coaching. Something happens at United that doesn’t seem to happen at Liverpool or City with the same consistency and regularity. United is where talent goes to die.

Whilst the Glazers keep getting blamed nothing will change because players go to United and don’t improve. That can’t solely be the fault of the Glazers unless you still blame your mum when you stub your toe. An expensive but aging injection of talent coached elsewhere quickly fades in that environment. Expensive young talent brought in goes
around in circles before stagnating.

A United supporting friend of mine told me that the Glazers are to blame because they’ve cut departments, funding and spent nothing on the stadium. It’s got so bad that they only hoover up on match days and whilst that all may be true it’s a pathetic excuse. When my son was 10 he trained on a local bumpy field and was coached by a guy who’s day job was working at the BBC. He improved. Every player in that squad of players, some of whom called barely kick a ball, improved in every basic skill a footballer needs – touch, control,
passing, tactical discipline.

Every player at United seems to go backwards and it can’t solely be because there is no Henry’s (but if they can get Evans back then a little va va voom is still possible). Maguire is a victim not of the Glazers but of the excuses the Glazers provide. When everything is bad because of the Glazers then nothing can improve. It’s time United fans started to demand more – not just of the Glazers but of your Murtough’s, your Fletcher’s and your Ten Hag’s. Stop allowing the Glazers to be used for the fact that very few players turn up at
Carrington and get better.

On a totally unrelated note – in researching this letter I discovered Benni McCarthy is a fowards coach at United! Asking for a friend but how easy would it be to get him registered in the first team squad?
Richard, Manchester (living next door to the crumb infested theatre of dreams)


… Excellent article by Peter Fitzpatrick and, I would suggest, essential reading for that specific type of United supporter who will continue to insist that they are merely two or three players away from challenging for the title. Spoiler alert. They’re not and haven’t been for years.

I genuinely don’t say that in a snarky way. I wrote in a couple of years ago making the same point after Andy Goldstein (A presenter on Talk Sport for any outside of the UK that don’t know and a massive Essex Red) told an incredulous Darren Bent, perfectly seriously, that if United signed Jaydon Sancho, they would win the PL the following season. And that was before CR7 returned to the so-called ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and sent SM into meltdown.

Woodward’s appointment and the Glazer takeover are two pivotal points in United’s current demise and, unless a body like the Qatari’s bid succeeds, it’s hard to see how the decline is arrested. Even for a club the size of United. Oh, and for clarity, ‘demise’ as in the club’s current inability to challenge for major trophies.

Because it’s not just the players that need to be changed. If I asked the mailbox how many current first team United players would walk straight into the City line-up for Saturday’s game against The Hammers, (Not a single one) I don’t think there’d be much argument. Instead, I’d ask if Guardiola or Klopp would agree to work at the current Man United, present ‘loyalties’ notwithstanding? Would Txiki Begiristain or Ferran Soriano? Not a cat’s chance.

Look at the state of Old Trafford and, perhaps, compare it to the current Manchester United Football Club team. Ironic is it not that, in its heyday, it was the biggest and most awe-inspiring stadium in the country and opponents went there with trepidation. Now, it’s tired, dilapidated and absolutely miles behind stadia like the new WHL, the Emirates or the Etihad. Even Everton will open their new ground next year whilst ‘Pool have enhanced Anfield. United on the other hand, have, at best, stood still for at least ten years and nobody goes there any longer with anything approaching a sense of fear. Quite the reverse.

I wrote another mail a couple of years ago, which made the mailbox headline, that you could parachute both Klopp and Guardiola into Old Trafford and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. I repeat that view now. I assert that Ten Hag is on an absolute hiding to nothing, as his successors will be, until the club is cleared out root and branch and starting, most importantly, with the grasping leech b*stards that currently own it.
Mark (It’s not just SAF they miss. It’s the combination of SAF and David Gill they miss). MCFC.

Read more: Ten Hag faces the biggest challenge of his career: turning this cursed Manchester United ship around

Midfield or Maguire?
Given the abuse Maguire got after the OG against Scotland I thought I’d rewind the tape and look back 30 seconds in the run of play. Bellingham and Rashford combined nicely for a an attack on Scotland’s right wing. Bellingham floats a cross or shot, can’t tell which, it crosses the goal line over the crossbar. So far so good. Bellingham immediately turns his back to the goal, off the pitch over the goal line, facing the Scotland supporters. As he’s doing that the Scottish goalkeeper quickly gets the ball retrieves and communicates to his defenders and quickly restarts play. The Scot receiving the ball immediately pushes 30 yards up the pitch while Bellingham sullenly starts to lope back on the field. Rashford keeps his back turned the ball. Once he realised that the Scots are attacking he casually nods his head to himself and starts to walk back to his midfield position. The Scots swarm the area on England’s left and the Central defenders have to turn to face their own net to keep up with the Scottish winger. Trippier has to make a diagonal run to pressure the Scot who cross the ball in time for Maguire to score.

Falling asleep or act stroppy after yet another blazed over shot and a clever quick restart by an opponent is the English midfielders calling card. It really doesn’t matter who is doing the central defending if the midfield is not making a recovery run after yet another fruitless over powered shot.

France Italy Spain or Argentina will pounce on England’s frequently lazy midfielders and the defenders will always get the blame for a collapsed lackadaisical midfield. The laziness can’t be coached out of overhyped overpaid players.
Dan, Oxford


Three Lions thoughts
Just a few observations on Thursday’s mailbox and England.

Yeah, nice guys finish last. Being a prick is a valuable commodity in football and, as politicians and CEO’s constantly prove, in life. It’s one of the eternal conundrums of being a human isn’t it really. Some people resolutely refuse to be a selfish, aggressive and underhanded muppet fart just to get ahead, to win. But if you don’t you can feel left behind, unappreciated and less valued while the vacuous and stupid get overpromoted. This is exacerbated in football to some extent due to its directly competitive nature.

My son’s under 12 football team has been promoted to the top league. The teams we play there are all brilliant at football but many are also vile. Sly pushes, horrible tackles, mouthing off at the referee, mouthing off at our players, parents directing abuse at our players, cheating linesmen. I told my son I’d rather he lost every game than turn into one of those types of people just to win a game of football. Winning does not absolve you of being a prick. You are still a prick with a medal. I’d rather not be a prick without a medal thanks.

I know a chunk of people would disagree, but I have no problem whatsoever in Gareth Southgate being ‘too nice’. The only thing I can really disagree with him about is the Jordan Henderson selection but that’s fine. I understand his point of view. There are too few people in positions of influence that demonstrate that quality and I will be right behind him until he gets taken down by the social media, firework in arse ‘fans’.

I have no idea what fantasy world these other England fans inhabit. If you want Southgate to take the handbrake off and roll down the hill into oblivion then you are asking him to do what no World Cup/Euro winning team has ever done. Win it by crushing the opposition 4-0 with all our ‘superior’ attacking players crammed on the pitch? It has not happened in the last 40 years or so for any side. Quite often it’s the exact opposite. Bloody Greece. Are you so arrogant to think we are SO much better that we can do that every match? Madness.

Jordan Henderson. How can I put this politely. English footballers, for the most part, are not clever. They are football smart, yes. They can have good interpersonal skills, yes. But as for logical reasoning, the ability to comprehend complicated processes and a wider knowledge of how the world works…. forget it. I know for a fact that many academies demand the bare minimum in terms of ‘normal’ education of their players. Like some other areas of society, to be clever is NOT a socially acceptable trait in football. I honestly don’t know what anyone, including Jordan, expected from that interview really.
Have fun kids!
Funstar Andy


…A few England thoughts… England were very good against Scotland. Not as good as TV and press would have you believe, but very good nonetheless. I have been a fan of Gareth’s since he took over from Allardyce (I would have been a fan of anyone instead of Allardyce to be fair) but the performance against Ukraine did remind me of Hodgson so it was good to get things a bit more exciting again.

People need to accept that a squad is picked on a mixture of ability, form, the manager’s previous experience of working with the player, availability of suitable alternatives and many other factors. It is impossible to have blanket rules that apply to all players. And every time I hear someone say ‘I thought Southgate said he was going to pick players on form’ a little piece of me dies.

Maguire’s own goal was unfortunate but I was more worried by his laboured passing and first touch that regularly bobbled. Dunk looked ok, and Guehi brought the ball out well in both games.

England’s attacking strength in depth will be used as a stick to beat Southgate with. Rashford, Grealish, Foden, Saka, Maddison, Bellingham, Sterling, Mount, Eze, all good options competing for 3 positions behind Kane (could also add Bowen, Barnes, Gibbs-White, Gordon and Palmer to this list as outsiders). When we don’t win, it will be because he didn’t pick player X.

I was disappointed in Henderson for making the move to Saudi, but it shouldn’t automatically exclude him from selection. However he has not been first choice for England for a while now, and from a footballing perspective the Saudi Pro League is not likely to improve him. I suspect Southgate will want to see him in the next squad (or two) to confirm this and then hopefully bin him off before the Euros.

It does make the position alongside Rice interesting. Phillips looked good and it seems like Southgate is a fan of Gallagher. Bellingham could play deeper, but the weakness of this England team is CB, so I think it will be someone more defensively minded. Could Trent go in there? Feels like players such as James Ward-Prowse or Curtis Jones don’t really have a place in this side.

Kyle Walker is fast (and good)

We will hopefully have qualified by the end of the next international break. Won in Italy, beat Macedonia 7-0 (who then went on to draw against Italy), and just beat our closest and oldest rivals in their own backyard. I really don’t understand all the negativity.
Andy the Hammer


Not all Sanchos
While I found myself nodding serenely through most of what Peter Fitzpatrick had to say on United, one part did catch my attention.

He wrote of Sancho that he ‘did what modern athletes do when faced with criticism and took to Twitter/X after being left out of the squad for the loss at Arsenal.’

I’m not sure the statement can be so sweeping. If perhaps ‘with inflated egos, thin skin, who have chased fame and fortune over achievement and are surrounded by sycophantic advisors’ was inserted between ‘athletes’ and ‘do’ then I think we’re on a winner.

There are many more athletes in football and beyond who retain their toys and dummies upon a setback and double and redouble their efforts in training than there are Jadon Sancho’s.
Dr Oyvind, Earth.

Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho arrives for a Premier League match at Tottenham.

You’ll Neville walk alone
Completely disagree with Lee.

In a constantly changing and evolving world we need some certainties. Death, taxes, and Phil Nev at number 50 are those certainties.
Edward Canhands (I still find the joke funny but I have a very sad life)


Arsenal ladder
Now the interlull is over, and we’ve sampled the first four games of Artetaball in 23/24, here is my second Arsenal ladder of 23/24 season.

This is my estimation on the thoughts of Mikel Arteta. Numbers in brackets indicate previous positions.

1 (1) Saka – The squad has the least depth in his position. Starboy.
2 (2) Odegaard – El Capitano and conductor of the orchestra.
3 (4) Rice – “The Lighthouse”.
4 (3) Saliba – Clearly the most important CB in the eyes of Arteta.
5 (10) White – One of only three outfield players (along with Rice and Saliba) to play every minute so far.
6 (6) Martinelli – Nobody has more assists this season.
7 (13) Zinchencko – Fit again. Arteta will want him to stay fit.
8 (8) Havertz – He may divide opinion but Arteta clearly has faith. Started all four games and only six players have played more minutes.
9 (20) Nketiah – Will fall with the return of Jesus, but has been trusted in his absence.
10 (11) Ramsdale – Can still feel Raya breathing down his neck.
11 (5) Gabriel – Snuck back in to the starting 11 in the last game.
12 (12) Jesus – Fit again. Will rise.
13 (9) Partey – “The Lighthouse” makes “Work Event” less prominent. And the recent injury even more so.
14 (17) Vieira – Making game changing contributions off the bench.
15 (21) Tomiyasu – Used in three of the four games so far. Versatile.
16 (14) Raya – Will get his chance against PSV I imagine.
17 (16) Jorginho – Definitely trusted, but only 18 minutes (plus added time) off the bench so far.
18 (15) Trossard – Didn’t make the most of his start against Fulham.
19 (19) Kiwior – Zinchenko, Gabriel and Tomiyasu have all had more minutes than him this season. Good depth though.
20 (23) Nelson – Fit again and introduced against Man Utd when a goal was needed.
21 (18) Smith Rowe – Yet to step out on to the hallowed turf.
22 (25) Elneny – Broken.
23 (7) Timber – Even more broken.
Naz, Gooner.


Lay off Kai
I can’t help but feel Jason Soutar has a very specific axe to grind with Havertz and is leaning more into the Talksport outrage machine narrative than the general Arsenal fandom in this, who are much more ‘give it time’.

Basically every output from F365 from Jason, whether directly about Arsenal or wider (like the ‘why did they sign’? piece) takes a shot at Havertz, as if he’s been stinking up the joint for 6+ months, rather than been basically fairly reasonable, if not standout, so far, playing in a new position.

So Jason, we get it, you’re not keen, fair enough.

But stop painting this as a whole Arsenal fan thing, or a forgone conclusion. I for one am pretty keen to see him kick on and start interchanging with Jesus after the international break.
Tom, Walthamstow