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Criticism made me consider walking away as England coach — Southgate

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Gareth Southgate considered stepping down as England boss because of criticism he faced before the World Cup, saying: “The last thing you want as a manager is that your presence is divisive and inhibits performance.”

England were knocked out of the tournament by France in the quarter-finals, 18 months after losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

The team were booed off in June following a 4-0 defeat against Hungary at Molineux in the Nations League – part of a generally poor series of results leading into the winter World Cup.

Explaining for the first time how he reached the decision to stay in his job, he told BBC Sport: “I never want to be in a position where my presence is affecting the team in a negative way.

“I didn’t believe that was the case, but I just wanted a period after the World Cup to reflect and make sure that was still how it felt.”

The 52-year-old said he asked himself: “Is it the right thing to keep taking this project on? I wanted to make sure I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.”

Describing his role as “the greatest privilege of my life”, he said the decision to stay was ultimately “not difficult” because of “the quality of performances and the progress that we’re making”.

“The team are still improving. We’re all gaining belief in what we’re doing,” he said.

In the immediate aftermath of his team’s defeat to France six weeks ago, Southgate said he felt “conflicted” about his future, having “found large parts of the last 18 months difficult”.

England went into the World Cup on the back of relegation from their Nations League group and during the Hungary defeat some England fans chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at the manager.

After failing to match both the semi-final he led England to in the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020, Southgate said he would “review and reflect”.

But a week later the FA announced he would see out the remaining two years of his contract.

Now, in his first public comments since that decision, Southgate has opened up on the effect the criticism he received following the Hungary defeat had on him.

“I was worried after that game the team would be affected by the narrative about whether the manager stay or go, and when we went into the games in September we were a little bit anxious.

“At Wembley against Germany the crowd weren’t against their team but they were waiting to see what happened.

“I’ve been around teams where that can inhibit performance, and the last thing you want as a manager is that your presence is divisive and inhibits performance.

“I knew I had support with the players and [the FA], there are bigger things at stake with England than just [that].

“My only concern… was when it feels like there might be division between what the fans want and where my position might have been, that can affect the team, and I was conscious of that leading into the World Cup.

“I felt we had great support, but I was conscious… how would things be during and after?”

Southgate says his team recovered before the World Cup, but that he wanted to be sure after the tournament that staying was the right thing for his side.

“You need to give yourself time in these situations to make good decisions,” he said.

“I think it’s easy to rush things when emotions are high, and very often you have to sleep a little bit more and come to the right conclusions.

“The question for me was… ‘is it the right thing to keep taking this project on?’ Because it’s not just the six years I’ve been with the seniors – I’ve been here 10 years with developing everything as well. So I wanted to make sure I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.”

Culled from BBCSports

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