As Gareth Southgate looks to prepare the England squad for their first match of the 2022 World Cup against Iran tomorrow, there is sure to be one woman on his mind.
The football manager, 49, has been married to his wife of two decades Alison, 53, whose off-pitch support the manager has credited with keeping him grounded.
The blonde former sales assistant is a constant supportive presence, but shuns the flashy WAG lifestyle and largely remains out of the spotlight to focus on their two children Mia, 21, and Flynn, 17.
Gareth has spoken openly about how time with his wife and their two children helps to keep him sane away from the pitch and his own experience has long inspired his ‘family first’ strategy with the team.
And while Alison, who is said not to be a fan of football, was spotted cheering on her husband and the team during the Euro 2020 matches, she is more likely to be offering a low-key support from afar during this year’s World Cup tournament.
As Gareth Southgate looks to prepare the England squad for their first match of the 2022 World Cup against Iran, there is sure to be one woman on his mind – his wife Alison, whose off-pitch support the manager has credited with keeping him grounded
While she is said not to be a fan of football, the wife of the England manager was oft spotted in the stands during the Euro 2020 competition last year
The former player was in his early 20s and a trainee at Crystal Palace when he fell for Alison, a pretty boutique assistant almost four years his senior.
He would loiter around her boutique pretending to be browsing clothes, and was helped by the owner of an Italian restaurant in Croydon, which he and Alison frequented, who acted as a go-between.
Having been teased for his prominent nose, he was so unconfident of his looks that it took him about two years to ask her out.
When he finally did, she told him she was living with someone. However, she eventually left her boyfriend for Southgate.
They married in June 1997, in a low-key ceremony at his parents’ local church, St Nicholas in Crawley, that was planned between World Cup and European Championship campaigns
In his book, Southgate recalls how he and Alison would meet in a Tesco car park to keep their romance secret from her ex.
However, when he was transferred to Aston Villa, she gave him an ultimatum: either she moved to Birmingham with him or the relationship must end.
His parents, were ‘a little taken aback’ when they announced they were living together because they had only met her once.
They ‘found it hard to believe that a son who had been so methodical, logical and weighed up everything’ would behave so capriciously.
She supported a devastated Gareth as he recovered from England’s 1996 defeat after he missed the crucial penalty in the Wembley.
They married in June 1997, in a low-key ceremony at his parents’ local church, carefully planned between World Cup and European Championship campaigns.
Gareth has spoken openly about how time with his wife and their two children helps to keep him sane away from the pitch and his own experience has long inspired his ‘family first’ strategy with the team
The family home is a magnificent Grade I-listed Elizabethan manor nestled in the wilds of North Yorkshire, that he bought for £3.75 million when he moved to Middlesbrough.
Neighbours remark on the family’s down-to-earth nature and generosity of spirit.
Describing them as ‘lovely people’, one local resident this week recalled how they reacted when carol singers warbled hopefully outside the gates of their mansion at Christmas.
‘They came down to meet us with a torch and invited us up to the house. The Southgates were all there with the kids and another family. They had lit two roaring fires and showed us into their Elizabethan dining room where we all had mulled wine and sang carols together.’
And he’s spoken frequently about how his wife and children help him to stay sane away from the pitch.
Describing, in his 2003 autobiography, how family life helps him overcome football disappointments, he comments: ‘On Saturday evening, our children are not too bothered whether Dad’s team have won or lost.
‘Neither does Alison fret too much about football, and this is how I like it. Regardless of the result, it is up to me to ensure that no one’s evening is ruined because of things that happened on a football field.
‘The agonising waits until Alison and the kids are asleep.’
In 2017, he described how he was unwinding with his family ahead of preparing the England team for the world cup.
‘Over the last couple of weeks I’ve just had a nice time spending it with the family though, and for me that’s important because my kids are 18 and 14, and their development is as important for me as anything else in my life,’ he told the Evening Standard.
‘You do have to try to find a balance because my focus inevitably gets drawn towards making this team as successful as we can and driving them to be the best team in the world, but I’m also a dad and a husband.’
Meanwhile in 2018 Jamie Vardy’s wife Rebekah confirmed that Southgate’s tactic is to allow players time with their loved ones, unlike in previous major tournaments.
‘He’s got the right idea of the team mentality,’ she told The Sun at the time. ‘He’s really relaxed with the players and he makes an effort with all of the families.
‘He really encourages family days after games which relaxes the players, it brings a bit of normality in.’
Alison is a constant supportive presence, but shuns the flashy WAG lifestyle and largely remains out of the spotlight to focus on their two children Mia, 21, and Flynn, 17
Clive Southgate previously told DailyMail his daughter-in-law had little interest in the sport, saying: ‘Actually, I don’t think Alison likes football very much.
‘Obviously she has to take an interest because it’s Gareth’s job, and she is always very supportive.
‘She will sometimes go to Wembley for an international game — but not during the school term because she always puts the children first.’
According to one family source, she is a committed animal rights campaigner, and is backing calls to end battery-farmed pigs being caged.
Her father-in-law said she and Gareth enjoy socialising with a ‘wide circle of friends’, but neighbours in North Yorkshire have said she seems happiest when wandering the countryside in jeans and boots with her two dogs, a Labrador and a cockapoo.
She is thought to be a vegetarian, she attends regular yoga classes and on Facebook expressed her envy of a friend who was at the Glastonbury Festival.
She supported a devastated Gareth as he recovered from England’s 1996 defeat after he missed the crucial penalty in the Wembley (Southgate pictured after missing his penalty)
Alison hit the headlines when she was spotted hugging her husband in support after England’s World Cup Semi Final match with Croatia
She also takes holidays with girlfriends — Barbados is a favourite destination — for she has no need to work.
She retains her looks with daily gym workouts and frequent appointments with a beautician.
And while she was unable to unite with her husband while he remained in the Covid bubble during the Euro 2020 contest, she was spotted in the stands ahead of the team’s match against Scotland last Friday.
The striking blonde could be seen alongside a group of friends as she stood in Wembley, opting to forgo the traditional England shirt for a more lowkey white-tshirt and blazer.
In October this year, the couple made a rare joint appearance as they attended the Legends of Football 2022 evening at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel.
While it has not been confirmed, it is likely Alison will join the other WAGs in Quatar for the competition.
The father-of-two promotes a ‘family first’ strategy within the England squad and has spoken frequently about how his wife and children help him to stay sane away from the pitch
Gareth has been married to Alison for more than 20 years and has credited her off-pitch support with keeping him grounded (Pictured: At Wimbledon in 2019)
Several WAGs are reportedly set to base themselves on the MSC World Europa, dubbed a ‘floating palace’, which will be situated in Doha Port.
The £1billion cruise liner boasts beauty salons, boutiques, dodgems, six swimming pools, 14 ocean-view jacuzzis and the longest dry-slide at sea titled The Venom Drop to keep them entertained between matches.
A Sportplex zone offers basketball, bumper cars and even a roller disco rink, meaning plenty of opportunities for fun.
In addition to 13 restaurants and bars, the cruise liner features a micro-brewery and mixology classes in its Elixir gin bar.
In Qatar there are strict alcohol rules, but because the MSC World Europa is ‘off-shore’, those on board can sip on champagne without fear of legal repercussions.
While it has not been confirmed, it is likely Alison will join the other WAGs in Quatar for the competition. Many will be living on cruise ship in Dohar as they cheer their partner’s on from a distance