Rupert Cox: A true professional
- Credit: Archant
England football manager Gareth Southgate has made our columnist feel proud of his country
So what is it with a tall, dark, handsome, well-groomed, bearded, waistcoat-wearing football manager that got the country purring? You know who I mean – Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England football team who made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia. As someone who thinks he knows his sport, I was mildly surprised at the success of the team, but not of Mr Southgate’s persona.
Gareth Southgate was a successful professional footballer with a distinguished playing career, winning trophies with unfashionable clubs such as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace; he was a tough tackling defender, not a fancy-footed forward.
He played 57 times for his country and featured at World Cups and European Championships where he was one of the poor souls who missed in a penalty shootout that, had it gone in, would have taken England to the 1996 European Cup Final. That was also the tournament where the song Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) first featured.
Management followed his retirement at the unfashionable Middlesbrough, where he had finished his playing career. His rise to managing the senior England team was not a surprise; although the timing was. Having managed the England U21 team to great success across the world, the FA felt compelled to catapult Gareth into the hot seat after the previous manager was unceremoniously sacked following a media “sting”.
That is the football side of Gareth Southgate, but what about the man, and why have we universally taken to this footballing gent?
He went to his local “comp” in Crawley and 20 years ago married his childhood sweetheart, Alison. They have two teenage children, all living “normal lives” – well, normal for a life in professional football.
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Here is an articulate professional who cares about the young players he has “blooded” at the World Cup. His expectations of his team were realistic; he understood the pressure of the dreaded penalty shootout as he had been there as a player, and failed. He appears calm and measured in all he says and does.
Apparently he is meticulous in his planning, and of course his dress sense – much to the delight of M&S, which sold out of “his” waistcoats. There is no hollering and shouting; no blaming referees when things don’t go well; no barbed insinuations of injustice; and no arrogance – all of which are typically displayed by others in his profession.
Gareth Southgate should take much of the credit for the enjoyment the country experienced at the end of June and into July – with the St George Cross flying proudly (and not apologetically) from windows, rooftops and car doors, and the re-release of the hit single Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) 22 years after we last had the confidence to believe it, before many of his squad were even born.
He made me feel proud of being English and proud of our flag that should never again be seen with some sort of xenophobic or, worse, racist connotation. I support the England football, rugby and cricket teams with as much pride and passion as other nations of the United Kingdom do of their national teams. “Come on England!”
Rupert Cox is the CEO of the Royal Bath and West Society. For more from Rupert, follow him on Twitter! @rupert_rbw