Connect with us


England manager on decision to stay, World Cup & human rights



Gareth Southgate considered stepping down as England boss because of criticism he faced before the World Cup, saying: “The last thing you want as a manager is that your presence is divisive and inhibits performance.”

England were knocked out of the tournament by France in the quarter-finals, 18 months after losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties at Wembley.The team were booed off in June following a 4-0 defeat against Hungary at Molineux in the Nations League – part of a generally poor series of results leading into the winter World Cup.

Explaining for the first time how he reached the decision to stay in his job, he told BBC Sport: “I never want to be in a position where my presence is affecting the team in a negative way.

“I didn’t believe that was the case, but I just wanted a period after the World Cup to reflect and make sure that was still how it felt.”

The 52-year-old said he asked himself: “Is it the right thing to keep taking this project on? I wanted to make sure I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.”

Describing his role as “the greatest privilege of my life”, he said the decision to stay was ultimately “not difficult” because of “the quality of performances and the progress that we’re making”.

“The team are still improving. We’re all gaining belief in what we’re doing,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview conducted at the team’s training base St George’s Park, Southgate:

strongly suggested he considered announcing last year that Qatar would be his final tournament to “free that narrative up so the support is behind the team, and not debating whether the manager should be there or not”

said getting knocked out in the quarter-final was “really difficult to take” but the support from players and fans “definitely lifts you”

revealed he was “comfortable” with his tactics during the defeat to France and had no regrets

insisted England are “really competitive against everybody now” and is “very confident” about their chances at next year’s European Championship in Germany

Pre-Qatar doubts

In the immediate aftermath of his team’s defeat to France six weeks ago, Southgate said he felt “conflicted” about his future, having “found large parts of the last 18 months difficult”.

England went into the World Cup on the back of relegation from their Nations League group and during the Hungary defeat some England fans chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at the manager.

After failing to match both the semi-final he led England to in the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020, Southgate said he would “review and reflect”.

But a week later the FA announced he would see out the remaining two years of his contract. Now, in his first public comments since that decision, Southgate has opened up on the effect the criticism he received following the Hungary defeat had on him.

“I was worried after that game the team would be affected by the narrative about whether the manager stay or go, and when we went into the games in September we were a little bit anxious.

“At Wembley against Germany the crowd weren’t against their team but they were waiting to see what happened.

“I’ve been around teams where that can inhibit performance, and the last thing you want as a manager is that your presence is divisive and inhibits performance.

“I knew I had support with the players and [the FA], there are bigger things at stake with England than just [that].

“My only concern… was when it feels like there might be division between what the fans want and where my position might have been, that can affect the team, and I was conscious of that leading into the World Cup.

“I felt we had great support, but I was conscious… how would things be during and after?”

Southgate says his team recovered before the World Cup, but that he wanted to be sure after the tournament that staying was the right thing for his side.

“You need to give yourself time in these situations to make good decisions,” he said.

“I think it’s easy to rush things when emotions are high, and very often you have to sleep a little bit more and come to the right conclusions.

“The question for me was… ‘is it the right thing to keep taking this project on?’ Because it’s not just the six years I’ve been with the seniors – I’ve been here 10 years with developing everything as well. So I wanted to make sure I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.”

‘Trying to break through history’

In an indication of how close he had come to announcing before the World Cup that he would step down following the tournament, Southgate said: “My thinking is always around, ‘How does this affect the team?’

“Is this going to give the team the best chance going into the World Cup?” he added.

“Do we need to free that narrative up so the support is behind the team, and not debating whether the manager should be there or not? But I think we came through that period.”

Asked whether he wavered as he weighed up whether to stay, Southgate said: “Not after the World Cup. In the lead-in that was a little bit different.

“I wasn’t quite sure how things would play out, and I think it’s always right to judge an international manager on their tournaments.

“Our performances were good. With France, across the flow of the game, we should win. But football is a low-scoring game where small margins make a difference.

“And we have to make sure now those small margins are turned in our favour. We’re much closer now to really having that belief to win. We’ve still got a small step to take – I saw progress in the team from our performances in the Euros.

“We’re trying to break through history here as well as against opponents that are high-level. I feel we’re really competitive against everybody now.

“Outside of France, and you could argue Croatia, we’ve probably been as consistent as any team in terms of our finishes. And I think people have enjoyed that journey with us.”

Asked how it would have felt to see someone else take over, Southgate replied: “I’m never worried about somebody else taking over and benefiting, that’s how it should work.

“We’re talking about building a future for England for now, for the next tournament, but also beyond that.”

‘Exit was difficult to take’

Southgate said the support he received from players and fans after the France defeat “definitely lifts you”.

“The moment you depart is really difficult to take, and you know the steps you have to take for the next one,” he said.

“But I don’t think you can make decisions as a manager just on having support from everybody because you’re never going to have support of everybody.”

While most of Southgate’s selections paid off in Qatar, and his team showed more attacking intent than previously, there was some criticism that he waited until the 85th minute against France to introduce in-form Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.

When asked if he had any regrets about the match, he said: “I don’t really. What I’ve learned in this job, whenever the result doesn’t go as you hope then the solution is always the things you didn’t do, because of course nobody knows what they might look like.

“So I’m comfortable with that. I think we used the squad well. There can always be an argument for a different player providing something at a different time.”

‘Gaining belief’

When it was suggested to Southgate that some fans feel a new manager is needed to help deliver silverware for England, he said: “I think if our performances weren’t at the level they had been, then I think there would be a little bit more legitimacy in that argument.

(BBC Sports)

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Where have all the mystery bowlers gone? 



by Rex Clementine 

It’s been a while since a mystery Sri Lankan spinner bamboozled the opposition batsmen. Not just batsmen but coaches went on a frenzy decoding these bowlers while Times of India and Daily Telegraph dedicated headlines praising how well Sri Lanka groomed these sensational talents.

Ajantha Mendis was the last global sensation with bit of mystery as his carrom ball humbled India’s fabulous batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. After him T. M. Dilshan opening the batting with field restrictions on came up with a scoop shot over the head of the wicketkeeper that later became popular as Dilscoop.

Not exactly mystery but Sri Lanka promoting unorthodox style of play totally contrary to the coaching manual had been appreciated and encouraged. Not just Dilshan and Mendis but Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya all broke convention and were extremely successful.

Credit to selectors and captains for encouraging these natural talents and more importantly for the coaches, especially at lower levels, for not sidelining them for being different.

Mendis and Malinga weren’t hits at school cricket and they were more or less groomed after they left school. But Jayasuriya and Murali were entirely different. Thankfully their early coaches did not tinker too much with their style.

Coaches nowadays are too engaged in the sport. They roam around the boundary rope providing ball by ball instructions making the captain redundant. Imagine how much impact they’d be having on players at training and there’s little room for creativity.

Cricket Academies are mushrooming as well with little monitoring done and you sense that not many players with unorthodox style are going to be accepted and as a result succeed. There are few rare talents with unorthodox styles. Some bowlers have copied Lasith Malinga and Matheesha Pathirana has earned an IPL deal even before he’s become a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan side.

Paul Adams earned a nickname ‘frog in the blender’ for his action  and anyone who sees Sri Lankan spinner Kevin Koththigoda from down south will remember the South African wrist spinner.

Funnily Richmond College, Galle seem to be nurturing these special talents and Kamindu Mendis is another player who can  make a big impact. He’s nowadays mostly in the Test squad and nearly featured in the second Test in Wellington. He’s there in the team for his batting but he’s ambidextrous and bowls both left-arm spin and off-spin with good accuracy. That makes him an ideal candidate for shorter formats of the game and that’s where he should perhaps focus more at succeeding.

Continue Reading


Gateway wins Netball Championship



The victorious Gateway College under 18 Netball team

Gateway College emerged Under 18 Netball Champions at the Inter International School tournament organized by Colombo International School (CIS) played at the Sugadadasa Indoor Stadium.

Gateway College, led by calm and composed Rithika Srikanth, beat Lyceum Wattala 16 -8 in the final after leading 9 – 6 at the breather. Gateway entered the final by beating their counterpart in Kandy 12 -6. At the Group stages, Gateway beat ILMA 16– 5, Lyceum Nugegoda 12 – 1, CIS Colombo 17 – 0 and the British School in Colombo 18 – 0.

Gateway’s young star Shenoshi Abeygunawardena was crowned the Netball Queen and Cloe Thillakaratne was adjudged as the Best Defensive player. Mawrya Liyanage did the vital turnarounds to keep Lyceum Wattala under check and Goal Attack Onadhi Samarakoon was outstanding with her accurate shooting.

Continue Reading


2023 Asia Cup likely in Pakistan and one other overseas venue for India games



“Which visa do we have to apply for?”

The 2023 Asia Cup is likely to be played in Pakistan with another overseas venue to host India games. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that both BCCI and PCB, after an initial standoff, are moving swiftly towards brokering a resolution which could have both teams playing their tournament matches against each other outside Pakistan. The overseas venue is not confirmed but the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka and even England are potential contenders to host five matches including at least two India-Pakistan contests.

India and Pakistan have been grouped together along with a qualifier in the six-nation Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in the first half of September this year and in a 50-over format. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are part of the other group. A total of 13 matches will be played across 13 days including the final. As per the format for the 2022 Asia Cup, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. The possibility of India and Pakistan playing three times remains.

As it stands, a small working group has been formed with the brief of creating a schedule and travel plan agreeable to all participating countries as well as the broadcaster before a final call is taken. The weather is likely to play a key role in determining the second venue outside of Pakistan, though there will be keenness among the Asian venues to host high-profile India-Pakistan games. Temperatures in early September in the UAE usually hover around the 40-degreee centigrade mark, though that has not prevented cricket from being played there: the 2021 IPL was played there late September, but Pakistan have played international matches in early September. In Muscat, Oman’s capital, temperatures remain lower and it did host the first round of the 2021 T20 World Cup. The option for England remains an ambitious one, though the prospect of big crowds in a city like London is likely to be an attractive one.

The option of staging part of the Asia Cup outside Pakistan was agreed in principle as the most favourable by all members of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) when they met last weekend in Dubai, on the sidelines of the ICC’s quarterly board meetings. Having failed to reach a resolution mid-March in Bahrain at the ACC meet, members converged for two further rounds of informal discussions in Dubai. The PCB, which has the hosting rights for the 2023 edition of Asia Cup, was represented by its chair Najam Sethi while the BCCI team comprised its secretary Jay Shah and Arun Dhumal, the IPL governing council chairman.

Last October, the PCB was caught off guard by Shah who said that the 2023 Asia Cup would be held in a “neutral” venue. The PCB, then under Ramiz Raja – Sethi’s predecessor – immediately responded that Pakistan would pull out of the tournament altogether if it was taken out of the country. Sethi reiterated that stance both in the Bahrain and Dubai rounds of discussions. Shah said he had made the statement in his capacity as the ACC president. During the Bahrain meeting, the BCCI pointed out that as hosts it had successfully conducted the 2018 edition of Asia Cup at a neutral venue – in the UAE – after it became clear Pakistan could not travel to India due to the strained political ties between the two neighbouring countries.

Relations continuing as they are, Shah had told the ACC that India wouldn’t be able to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. As discussions began in Dubai, he reiterated the position. The PCB did likewise, saying that if the entire tournament was taken out of Pakistan, they would pull out of the event altogether. At one point Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had offered to swap the hosting rights with the PCB, willing to stage the entire tournament, but that was rejected by the PCB.

With a stalemate all too apparent, a second option of splitting the tournament across two countries including Pakistan emerged over the course of informal discussions and was eventually presented and discussed at the formal ACC meeting. It is understood both PCB and BCCI were open to such a plan, subject to details and logistics being worked out that satisfied everyone. The plan will also be taken to their individual governments before a formal schedule is worked out.


Continue Reading