Southgate responds to talk he could replace Sarri at Chelsea

Date published: Sunday 9th June 2019 10:20

Gareth Southgate says there is “no way” he would return to club management right now – and the England boss is confident assistant Steve Holland remains similarly committed amid talk of a move to former club Chelsea.

A year on from bowing out of the World Cup in an extra-time semi-final loss to Croatia, the Three Lions are again nursing their wounds after Holland inflicted a 3-1 defeat in the final four of the inaugural Nations League in Portugal.

Southgate was quick to focus on his side’s progress and the attempts to win Euro 2020 on home soil next summer – a mouth-watering opportunity that means a return to club management is not in his thinking right now.

“The only thing on my mind is that we’ve got a European Championship next summer and we’ve got to keep improving this team to be the best possible team we can be for the country,” the former Middlesbrough boss, contracted until the 2022 World Cup, said.

“We brought 20,000 fans here (to Portugal) which is remarkable, a sign of their engagement back with the team and belief in what we’re trying to do.

“And so why would I rush to leave that opportunity and chance to affect not just the football but the other parts that the role brings? It’s not something that I think you even think about.

“Next summer? Then maybe that’s out of my hands, depending on how the tournament goes, because we’ve already had two semi-finals and if we don’t make the semi-final…and if we do… so these things will unfold.

“But my sole focus is producing the best team possible for England.”

Asked if he would be interested in the Chelsea job if, as expected, Maurizio Sarri departed, Southgate said: “No. I’m committed to England, simple as that.

“I don’t need to hedge my bets in keeping doors open or keeping things alive. There’s no way that I would leave England at this moment in time, to take any job.”

Southgate is a 50-1 outsider with bookmakers to take the Stamford Bridge post, but his assistant is available as short as 9-1 amid reports he is being considered for the role.

Holland’s only previous experience as manager was at Crewe, but he flourished during eight trophy-laden years at Chelsea as he went from reserve team manager to assistant first team coach – a role he left at the end of the 2016-17 campaign to work with England full-time.

Southgate says Holland is the “best assistant in the country” and believes he deserves to be attracting admiring glances, but he is sure his right-hand man would tell him about any approach.

“He is hugely important to everything we do,” Southgate said.

“We are probably the two that live and breathe every single minute of preparation for England, selection of players, tactical preparation, because we are the two people who are full-time on that side.

“The hours and the days and the nights and the early mornings help me to understand that literally becomes constant.

“For me he is hugely important in terms of his experience, his knowledge, the way he delivers the coaching as well.

“But I am sure at some point in the future he is going to want to be a manager and take that opportunity.

“I don’t believe that would be now, because he is very committed to the work we are doing, looking forward to next summer and hopefully this team will develop.

“But unquestionably, I’m sure he is going to get the same desires.”

Right now, though, the focus is on beating Switzerland in the third-place play-off on Sunday, when John Stones could be on the bench after his huge error put Holland on course for victory.

“In terms of John, he will be like a lot of the other players,” Southgate added. “We try to work with them and help them improve and certainly after a game like last night he will need our support because we are asking him to play in a certain way that puts him in more difficult situations.

“Mistakes are going to happen and I am going to make sure we don’t stop trying to play the right way. But also, I have to make sure that we are firm on what is required from us as a team to win football matches.”

 

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