Gareth Southgate admits he “wasn’t confident enough” at Middlesbrough to impose the values at the Riverside that have carried England to the World Cup quarter-finals.
Southgate could never have imagined being two matches from the Luzhniki showpiece after Euro 2016, when his reluctance to fill the void left by Roy Hodgson was swiftly followed by having to answer his nation’s call.
The former defender was beginning to moot a return to club management until Sam Allarydce’s ignominious exit, finding the job a good fit and feeling emboldened by a confidence he lacked during his time at Middlesbrough.
“I suppose deep down I’ve always held those beliefs and held my own values,” Southgate said.
“But not being confident enough to impose them. Certainly, I compromised a lot of that when I was with Middlesbrough. I wasn’t confident enough.
“You don’t have evidence it works until you’ve achieved results and then going through relegation and the problems that causes is a reminder, hang on a second, there are things there I don’t truly believe in.”
Southgate’s ability to bring together a coherent group and his leadership style has brought widespread admiration at home, where it has been joked he should lead Brexit negotiations.
The England boss refused to get dragged into political chat and laughed off the social media hashtag #GarethSouthgateWould – England’s tailors have also declared Saturday ‘National Waistcoat Day’ in his honour – but he was far more forthcoming when it came to leading his country – what has often been called ‘an impossible job’.
“I think there are really complex, difficult jobs,” Southgate added.
“And also, in life when you look around inventions and records that have been broken that you have to tell yourself that anything is possible but some things are more complicated and difficult than others.
“And I think what’s impossible about it is to keep everybody happy. You know, governments get elected on 38 per cent of the vote.
“We win the other night but I still had a couple of emails – I’ve got to change my address, by the way! – saying ‘really good, but you should be picking this one and that one’.
“So, I think right OK, it’s impossible to please everybody all of the time but you’ve got to just believe that you’re making decisions for the right reasons.”