We will be at it again today. We all know better than the manager in the build-up to a big England game, we all know our tactics would never fail.
Think of how you felt on Tuesday when you saw the team to face Germany. I can tell you exactly what the reaction was up and down the country: ‘Why’s he playing 3-4-3! Where’s Grealish? What’s he doing not picking Foden! Rice and Phillips won’t work! Kane needs to come off!’
It’s a thankless task, really, leading England. Gareth Southgate knows that whatever course of action he takes, 90 per cent of the population will think he has done wrong — politicians don’t even have to cope with that level of questioning.
England boss Gareth Southgate has made several line-up at Euro 2020 – and got them all right
Southgate has been criticised for his tinkering with the Three Lions squad but he has excelled
But what is important is that Gareth knows best. He knows more than any of us and that is why England have the wonderful potential of winning this European Championship. He has guided the squad into this position and been vindicated in every decision he has made.
One day, I hope people will look at him and realise how lucky England have been to have him in charge. I see him around Harrogate from time-to-time and the only way I can describe him is that he’s an absolute gentlemen, one of life’s good guys.
For some reason, however, there are those who think he is lucky to have such a position. He doesn’t dress with the style, say, of Italy’s head coach Roberto Mancini; he doesn’t have the honours from his playing days like Luis Enrique or Didier Deschamps, the men who lead Spain and France.
Southgate is not as flashy as his international manager rivals but is getting victories
If you were to make an analogy, you could say he was like a bag of ready salted crisps. At first glance, you think they are unremarkable but then you realise there is a reason why they have always been best sellers — the ingredients are right. The same is true with Gareth.
Look at the big calls he has made so far. He’s stuck with Raheem Sterling, who has scored three of England’s four goals. He’s stuck with Harry Kane, whose headed goal against Germany won’t be his last of this championship. He tactically matched Germany and put England into the last eight.
But there is more to it than that. Gareth has got the squad united because he makes the right calls at the right times; he knew the depth of feeling about wanting to take the knee and he backed the players firmly in public with a fantastic speech before the last friendly against Romania.
It might have been a conservative line-up against Germany but the call was absolutely spot on. Had England tried to make it an open encounter, they’d have come unstuck but the set-up and the desire within the team created an energy within Wembley that will live with me for a long, long time.
The 50-year-old selected a three-man defence against Germany and the move worked a treat
I played at Wembley on one of England’s lowest nights, when we got beaten 3-2 by Croatia and failed to qualify for Euro 2008. I can remember the anger and boos; I remember playing in games at Wembley when we scored and the cheers were gentle and expectant, like a night at the theatre.
Tuesday was different — my God, how it was different! I was working for 5 Live and I don’t mind admitting my emotions got the better of me as Sterling broke the deadlock and then Kane made sure of the win. What a pleasure and privilege it was to be on the side of the pitch.
Afterwards, I got all the feelings that I used to get after a big win when I was playing; I hadn’t felt that kind of rush since I had retired but this was something else, a reminder of why we love football so much. I can only imagine how the next week will be if England get through on Saturday.
England are now the favourites to win Euro 2020 this summer and face Ukraine in the last eight
It is important to stress the word ‘if’ — England have had difficulties in matches when the opposition have made the pitch congested. It would be wrong to get too excited now because Ukraine could be as difficult and as stubborn as Scotland were. They are difficult and will have loads of numbers back.
Ukraine deserve to be here and they carry a significant threat. I can imagine plenty of you will be thinking the difficult part has been done but this game is loaded with the potential for trouble — thankfully Gareth will know that better than anyone.
Since the Germany game, there’s been a lot of talk about him burying his penalty miss against them in 1996 but I hope, once and for all, we can stop talking about it. There’s no need to go there any more, that has been banished to the past.
Gareth Southgate might get continually questioned but in terms of being a leader and being the right man for England, he’s never had anything to prove. When you are shouting at the TV or talking about his line-up, remember that he knows his stuff. It’s time he gets the respect he deserves.
Southgate’s side are travelling to Rome for their Euro 2020 quarter-final on Saturday evening
MICAH RICHARDS’ PREDICTION: 1-0 TO ENGLAND
We produce our best performances against better opposition when there is more space. This won’t be easy but I think we will sneak through.
MICAH’S MAN OF THE WEEK
Before the start of last season, I was asked to pick a player from each club as one to watch. It was one of my first tasks as a Sportsmail columnist. For Leeds, my selection was Kalvin Phillips. I’d watched them a lot during their promotion campaign and knew he was good.
‘It is hard to get on the ball and play in the Championship but he did it brilliantly,’ I wrote in September. ‘He is known as a defensive midfielder, for tackling and hard work and stuff like that, but don’t put him in a bracket. He can go up another level.’
I got that last sentence wrong. He’s gone up another two or three levels and his performance against Germany was just sensational.
When you watch him live in a stadium, you can see there is so much more, how good he is on the ball. Phillips is going to be an England player for a very long time.
Kalvin Phillips has gone up another two or three levels in midfield during this tournament
POGBA PLAYED BEAUTIFULLY IN FRANCE DEFEAT
After watching France’s game with Switzerland on Monday, I logged on to a scouting website and watched what must have been 100 clips of Paul Pogba. I had to do it because I wanted to work out why the player I saw in Bucharest was not the one I see in the Premier League.
Is it because international football is played a beat slower than English football? Does he look that way in a Blue shirt because the tempo is similar to when he was rising with Juventus?
France may have been eliminated but that doesn’t change my view of Pogba. He was mind-blowing, some of the things he did were out of this world. It helps, of course, having Ngolo Kante alongside you and Karim Benzema in front of you but Pogba played beautiful football.
If it was down to me, I would buy a striker for Manchester United that could run in behind onto those glorious passes Pogba produces. He isn’t someone who you play off the left or as a holding midfielder. He’s a central midfielder who will dictate. I want to see him do it here every week.
Paul Pogba played some scintillating football despite France exiting Euro 2020 to Switzerland