Alas, Gareth Southgate did not don his signature waistcoat at GQ Heroes this year, but he did offer some interesting insight into how the pandemic has impacted football and the England team, for better or worse.
The man who led England’s football team to the World Cup semifinals in 2018 and then to third place in the Uefa Nations League last year, Gareth Southgate joined GQ‘s Stuart McGurk at Union Chapel, Islington, for a conversation that will answer all your questions about how Covid-19 has affected the beautiful game.
It turns out there have actually been a few upsides to challenges such as not having crowds at games. “I find it more insightful as a coach to be able to listen to the communication of the players [while they’re on the pitch], to see who are the organisers, to see who are the leaders,” said Southgate, when asked about the difference crowd noise makes. “When you haven’t got the fans to lift the team or help the team through moments of difficulty on the field, to have that leadership and have experienced players who are helping to get the best out of others is a really critical component of the team.”
Southgate also commented on how the postponement of Uefa Euro 2020 may impact the team’s performance. “We are a young squad, so another year of football, playing big matches, will help a lot, there’s no question about that,” he said. “The flip side of that is we’ll be going into the tournament on the back of the most physically intense season ever: a very short end season break, a very minimal preseason and a fixture list that has been condensed and crammed into a ten-month period. We have three weeks between the last League game and the first game of the Euros, so a week’s less preparation. It’s going to be a different kind of challenge physically. There are going to be a lot of inconsistencies and a lot of injuries. But most of the countries will be in a similar situation and the countries that adapt the most will be the most successful.”
The good news? Southgate is “confident that the Euros will go ahead”. While discussing whether or not the tournament may have to be postponed further, he said, “The format of the tournament has to be open to change, because we don’t quite know where we’ll be. It would be easy to say we’re super confident, but the reality of the world at the moment is that none of us know what we’ll be allowed to do in three or four days time. I’m sure that there will be contingency plans. There’s a possibility that the Euros goes in the format [that it usually] is and there are crowds in, but I think it would be naive to think there isn’t a chance we won’t have crowds in, or smaller crowds in, or the format of the tournament in different cities might look different. I don’t say that as any kind of insight of what’s going on with Uefa, but as a common sense view of what we seem to be experiencing throughout the…