Gareth Southgate’s ‘Big Club’ Prejudice Is Damaging England’s World Cup Chances

Gareth Southgate’s ‘Big Club’ Prejudice Is Damaging England’s World Cup Chances
Sep 2, 2017

England Featured

In a recent deadline day press conference that has seemingly went unnoticed, likely due to the hectic end of the summer transfer window, England boss Gareth Southgate made some interesting comments. Comments which rubbed some people the wrong way.

Since Southgate took over as England gaffer just over 11 months ago, a lot of people questioned the former U21 coach’s experience and character; many said we needed a leader, not a caretaker.

Although the former ‘Boro boss made some fair comments, such as justifying the players using social media such as Instagram live; claiming it is “Beneficial to connect more with supporters”, I’m no football expert Southgate’s ‘tactic talks’ seemed nothing but horrendous and actually baffling to hear.

When asked how West Ham ‘keeper Joe Hart’s confidence is after conceding 10 goals in just 3 games, Southgate replied: “Joe’s trained really well. I wanted to see how he’d respond to that because it’s been a difficult start to the season for his club.”

“His training has been excellent he’ll start for us tomorrow. His performances since I have been manager have been very very good.”

Southgate then got asked why Joe Hart will start (Which is what everyone is thinking after his consistently woeful performances for Torino last season) to which Southgate’s reasoning was: “He is our best goalkeeper at the moment”. 

I’m no footballing expert as I said, but surely Southgate can’t think this? With players such as Jordan Pickford impressing each week for Sunderland and then Everton, along with Tom Heaton being the catalyst in Burnley’s solid season, let alone Jack Butland, what convinced Gareth that Hart is the best in-between the sticks at the minute? Was it his ropy performances against poor Serie A teams, with dodgy decision-making on show every other week?

The 46-year-old then went on to say: “I don’t feel the others [goalkeepers] have had time to stake a claim to push Joe out of that position”

Is a season not long enough? Jordan Pickford was statistically the 5th best goalkeeper in the league in terms of shots faced last season, whereas Hart was third in errors made, and conceded 70 goals at a minimum. Some ‘pundits’ put this down to “bad defending” but to a certain extent, that doesn’t cover it for me.

Hart was poor last year and, unless he is just saying this due to Pickford’s untimely injury, Southgate surely knows that Joe has not been the best England ‘keeper in the past season.

When asked about the transfer of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool, Gareth had something very interesting to say: “Those decisions are down the players and their own reasons for that. For me, it’s great that as many of our players are playing for the top clubs as possible because they’re all going to get Champions League experience as well as playing in important league matches.”

“The more good matches they play in and feel what it’s like to play in that pressure and feel what it’s like to play against that quality, it can only improve them.”

It is understandable what Southgate is saying, however, I couldn’t get over his immediate, ignorant reaction to the question. Why exactly is it good that ALL of the players play for the top clubs? As previously discussed in the interview, he agreed more and more huge money transfers are happening, due to the big clubs’ spending power. Will that not hinder our lads’ chances of making it into the first team and impressing?

Also, is every match not a ‘important league match’ if you’re at a bottom half club? Would that fight-or-die attitude not massively help the England stars grow as footballers and shine in a team that desperately needs them? The Premier League beholds quality in any team you play against, and I’m convinced that player such as Michael Keane and Jake Livermore wouldn’t have got a look in if they still played for Manchester United and Spurs – with respect, these clubs look over English talents for the majority of the time, and tend to look towards the big money moves for ‘reassurance of quality’.

Southgate’s seemingly ignorant philosophy is probably why it took former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe so long get a call up back into the squad; his consistent goalscoring performances being shadowed by the fact he wasn’t playing for a “top club”. Why didn’t Harry Maguire get his call up until he moved to Leicester City (who Gareth probably considers a ‘top club’ now) when England found themselves struggling for quality at the back last year?

Only 7 players have been picked who’s clubs finished outside last seasons top 10, whilst players such as the injury prone Daniel Sturridge still finds his way into the squad. For the record, Deeney, Antonio and Gray all scored more Premier League goals than Studge last season- so why not give them a chance?

England have just four games left until they go off to another World Cup. Lets hope Southgate makes the right calls, and maybe even listen to the supporters. Maybe thats too much to ask for.

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