Gareth Southgate, the man you can always find on the sidelines in his signature navy waistcoat, light-blue shirt and striped tie combination, has emerged as an unlikely hero for England at 2018 World Cup. His men tore up the script in Russia. Southgate injected optimism, emotion, and enthusiasm back into a team that had become a maxim for disappointment.
Prior to the tournament, he was best remembered for missing the decisive penalty in the 1996 Euro semifinals against Germany. He was the focal point of all the criticism and was made the scapegoat as this incident turned out to be one of the most infamous events in English football history and hence for Southgate, "the penalty shoot-out win (against Colombia) was not just vindication but redemption."
His redemption story has already earned a lot of praise. He has gone from being responsible for one of the worst moments English football history, to one of the most loved ones in the game.
The way England played and the way in which you and your players conducted yourselves lifted the mood of the nation. You made England fall in love with football again and for that we’re all very grateful. Alf built positive qualities in us in ’66 and made sure we were united as a team, and now you have done the same and came so close to emulating our victory. I’m sure it will lead to a better, more successful future for the national side -- Sir Geoff Hurst, 1966 World Cup winner with England
This was such an incredible journey. Liverpool fans were seen singing Jordan Pickford's praises. Arsenal fans were seen celebrating Harry Kane goals. He played an instrumental role in uniting a turbulent nation. Before the World Cup, the comment "It's coming home" was genuinely a joke but as the tournament progressed people started to believe. It went from a throw away comment, to a belief.
Britain has been going through a rough patch, and this team offered hope that everyone will be able to get behind. In the past, England rarely played as a team. They had the likes of Lampard, Rooney, Beckham, Gerrard, and other great players, but it never clicked. This young team has done something as impressive as claiming the trophy itself. Even the most skeptical people are appreciating what these young guys have done.
The constant misfortunes that have hurt England for more than two decades were squandered away by calmness, composure, and intelligence of Gareth Southgate. England always looked convincing through the tournament. They had the spark, desire, and intent that was missing from the previous teams.
People might say that a lot of the opponents England faced were not convincing enough. They had the so-called easy route, but it must be emphasized that England suffered defeats against similar teams in the past. Remember the match against Iceland at Euro 2016. Southgate achieved what far more experienced managers were not able to do in the past. England were well set up, and they took advantage of what fell into place for them. In the end, you can only beat what is in front of you.
If you look at England's record in the last 20 years at Euros and World Cup, it will become pretty clear why this 2018 World Cup campaign means a lot to fans. Before this World Cup, they last won a knockout match in 2006, failed to qualify for 2008 Euros and this list goes on.
People were accustomed to heartbreak, and disappointment when it came to international tournaments. Under Gareth Southgate, they played as a team, as a group who wanted to prove something. They won a penalty shootout, won knockout matches and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. They laid all their demons one by one.
People saw a team which was a representation of modern England. It was a team which represents both youth and diversity. Before the tournament began, few thought England would play this well. This incredible rise would never have been possible without the charismatic personality of Southgate. He took young players to the edge of greatness.
The future looks bright for England.