Gareth Southgate has admitted that having two years left on his contract will not protect him from the sack if England flop at the World Cup this winter.
Southgate, whose deal runs until December 2024 and takes in that year’s European Championship, is under growing pressure before England close their disastrous Nations League campaign by hosting Germany at Wembley on Monday evening. The manager was booed by his own supporters after his side’s 1-0 defeat against Italy in Milan last Friday, a result that relegated the Euro 2020 finalists to the second tier of the Nations League, and the 52-year-old knows his future could depend on what happens in Qatar this winter.
“I am not foolish,” Southgate said. “My sole focus at the moment is to get the team right for tomorrow and then we are focusing on a good performance and a good result. I know ultimately I will be judged on what happens at that World Cup.
“Contracts are irrelevant in football because managers can have three-, four-, five‑year contracts and you accept that, if results are not good enough it is time to go your separate ways. Why would I be any different? I am not arrogant enough to think that my contract is going to protect me in any way.”
England have gone five games without a competitive win for the first time since 1992 and have not scored a goal from open play for 450 minutes. The lack of creativity has become a huge issue and Southgate, who is expected to stick with a 3-4-3 system against Germany, was realistic when it was pointed out that he continues to enjoy firm backing from the Football Association.
“I am absolutely appreciative of that,” he said. “But we understand how the mood changes with the results and has changed. I am realistic about that and I will be judged on what we do in Qatar and I am perfectly happy to be judged in that way. History is history and you are judged on the next match and the next tournament.”
Southgate, who could start Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier in the wing‑back positions and recall John Stones in central defence, could do without the Wembley crowd turning on him against Germany. He has united supporters behind him since becoming manager six years ago but the public mood is starting to turn.
“Part of the reason we’ve been successful in tournaments has been the feeling of togetherness,” Southgate said. “We can’t succeed with fans against us, or you guys not feeling warm towards us. It’s harder if we’re having to battle with the opposition and then battle with things on our own island. Only we can rectify that by performances and results.”
Southgate considered the relationship between the press and the England manager. “I have been in football for 30 years,” he said. “I have seen pretty much everything. I have seen the cycle of war with the media. I have seen the absolute love-in and we are somewhere in the middle of that — or maybe not quite in the middle. That is fascinating to observe from my side and it is a life experience I knew at some stage would probably come with this job.”
The spotlight is not merely on Southgate. Many of England’s most important individuals have disappointed and Raheem Sterling said the players have to improve.
“Results have not been good enough and we need to take responsibility,” the Chelsea forward said. “I know there has been a lot on Gareth and what he has been doing — formations and whatnot — but at the end of the day, the performances have not been right. As a collective we need to put that right.”
Sterling scored the opening goal when England defeated Germany 2-0 in the last 16 of Euro 2020. He knows how quickly the picture can change. The 27-year-old forward pointed out that he once dreaded going on international duty.
“My mentality was I need to just focus on myself,” he said.
“That’s definitely been something that’s put me in good stead. That’s a message that can definitely go with the squad here in the next couple of months. We know there will be noise and we need to block it out if we are going to do well.”