View from the terraces

The Gareth Southgate debate: should the England boss be sacked?

Fans turned on the Three Lions head coach after humiliating 4-0 loss to Hungary

England head coach Gareth Southgate has taken full responsibility for his side’s 4-0 hammering by Hungary in the Uefa Nations League on Tuesday. On a dismal evening in Wolverhampton the Three Lions slumped to their worst home defeat since 1928.

It was a “chastening night”, Southgate said. “We’ve not lost many matches and when you lose so heavily with England it’s going to be very, very painful.” The responsibility “lies with me” and “I’ve got to accept that the next period will be unpleasant and uncomfortable”. 

As a result of the “worst performance” in his six years as England boss, Southgate was the “main target for a mutinous Molineux”, said Phil McNulty on the BBC. He’s had “nights of deep disappointment” before but none “laced with the level of vitriolic personal abuse and scrutiny” that followed the humiliation by Hungary.

This was a “genuinely woeful performance” to cap an “11-day odyssey that now reads: played four, lost two, drawn two, scored one (Kane, pen)”, said Barney Ronay in The Guardian

Angry fans chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Southgate during the match and after the final whistle. With the Fifa World Cup taking place later this year, it has led to questions over whether he is the right man to lead England in Qatar.

‘Shut up you clowns’

After the match captain Harry Kane said Southgate was “without a doubt” the right man to lead England. While fellow forward Raheem Sterling believes a few bad results in the Nations League is “not something that we can judge him on”.

Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher also leapt to Southgate’s defence. In response to the chants the pundit tweeted “shut up you clowns” and reminded fans that Southgate had “taken the country in two tournaments to the best positions since 1966”. After reaching the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and the final of the Euros last year, Carragher said it was “nonsense” that Southgate was holding back this group of players. “This squad is no better than 2004/6 1996/98. Southgate has overachieved albeit with favourable draws.”

England fans have “short memories” and Southgate’s current treatment is “unfair”, said Sam Wallace in The Telegraph. It’s a “strange place to be” for a manager who last summer took the team to their first major final in 55 years and a World Cup semi-final three years before that. “That manager? He’s England’s biggest problem, it turns out.”

Of course Southgate knows what he is doing, McNulty said on the BBC. But is he “the winner” England have wanted for 56 years? “This remains an unanswered question.”

‘A mere blip or time for change?’

Southgate is England’s “most successful manager of the modern age”, a “decent, hard working bloke” and has “by any measure led England brilliantly”, Ronay said in The Guardian. But England’s fans “don’t like him” and even without “any record of defeat, only success, he has been labelled a failure”. Even on a run of almost “constant victory, goals, golden moments”, England’s manager has “been cast as a fraud and a killjoy”.

Supporters at Molineux “made their feelings known” during the humiliating loss to the Hungarians, but “was the result a mere blip or is it time for change?”, asked Stephen Crawford on Goal.com

“By the laws of football” Southgate “doesn’t deserve the sack”, said Harry Brent in the Daily Star. However, there are a number of reasons why England should consider it. The Three Lions have “lucked out with easy draws”, “consistently underperformed in the big moments”, and the way he sets the team up feels “more imitative than innovative”. 

Does Southgate have what it takes to lead England to the “promised land”, Brent asked. “Perhaps it’s time for something different. Something extra. Something a little more daring.”

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