Premier League

Dear England writer James Graham on Gareth Southgate’s tenure, Euro 2024 hopes & more

Dear England writer James Graham on Gareth Southgate's tenure, Euro 2024 hopes & more

After four tournaments, 100 games, and eight years in the hot-seat, Gareth Southgate’s time as England manager looks set to come to an end after Euro 2024.

And while Southgate’s legacy as England boss will be ultimately be defined by whether or not he can win this summer’s tournament with a golden generation of talent, no one can doubt the immense progress the nation has made during his tenure – both on and off the pitch.

Hired initially as an interim boss after Sam Allardyce’s one-game stint as Three Lions manager and the nation’s infamous Euro 2016 defeat at the hands of Iceland, it’s fair to say that no one could’ve predicted the success that Southgate has had in charge.

“If you remember 2016, it was a new low,” said ‘Dear England’ writer James Graham, speaking exclusively to 90min. “It felt like everything was collapsing and you could feel fans checking out because it was too painful. The hope had gone.

“If anyone had said at that point ‘well hold on, what would you say to me if I offered, not just a slight improvement, but that within two years someone would come along and give you the best set of runs in tournaments that England have had in 150 years’.

“You’d be like ‘no, that’s now going to happen. Of course it’s not going to happen that in two years we’re going to start that story.’ But we did start that story.”

The start of that story was both surprising and thoroughly enjoyable for England fans in equal measure. The Three Lions reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 in 2018, even winning a penalty shootout against Colombia en route, and for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, England fans had a team of likeable lads they could genuinely root for.

“It felt like an entirely new team,” James continued. “Our relationship to that squad felt very different. You know, I spoke to my mum, I remember she didn’t really like football, and her saying that she just really like these guys. They just seem like really nice guys, really caring as well as role models and the values they represent. Obviously satisfied me dramatically.”

They key to this huge shift in narrative around the England national team was the influence of Southgate.

“He’s just a the representation of an old style English goodness or the old nobility that we like to think of ourselves that like the Knights of King Arthur to some right, represents something quite mythic in his goodness and his quiet heroism.”

That ‘goodness’ and ‘quiet heroism’ hasn’t shielded Southgate from…

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