Raheem Sterling feels England's commitment to taking a knee at Euro 2020 and thereafter shows the gesture can still be powerful in the fight against racism despite certain fans voicing discontent.

In 2020, the Premier League lent its support to the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd, an African American man murdered by a white police officer in the American city of Minneapolis.

Clubs wore Black Lives Matter badges on their jerseys, while players, officials and staff began to take a knee at the start of every match.

In 2021-22, clubs are generally continuing to take a knee, though there are examples of individuals opting against it – Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player to say he was no longer going to kneel back in February 2021, the Ivory Coast international suggesting the gesture had lost meaning.

Ever since fans began returning to stadiums after the initial lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic, taking a knee has been a topic of debate.

Some supporters have gone as far as booing players for taking part, with the justification of such reactions being that some perceive it to be a "political" gesture despite what players and authorities say.

England players were jeered before Euro 2020 and it was confirmed they would continue to kneel during the tournament – the online abuse of Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho after their penalty misses in the final showed there was still a fight to be fought.

The Three Lions' commitment to taking a knee highlighted how this generation will not stand for such matters being swept under the carpet after a few days of outrage.

Speaking with manager Gareth Southgate to BBC Radio 4, Sterling said: "How us as a team took a stance, I think the big question was, 'Are we going to continue doing it through the Euros?'.

"And I think a lot of the time when the racism comes up or something has happened, a lot of the time in football and in the majority of society, we tend to address it for that period, for that five days or that week and then we brush it under the carpet and [pretend] things are all fine now.

"When the next scenario happens. that's when we go again. But us as a country, players that have been in those scenarios face some of that racist abuse, on a whole, we just want to keep highlighting that.

"Yes, there have been times that we've sat down and said, 'Is the message still powerful?', and we've said yes and as a group and as a collective we've tried to keep that going."

Sterling has been vocal in calling out racism for years, having routinely brought to attention the conduct of the British media.

Arguably the most famous such incident saw Sterling highlight how a newspaper reported on the spending habits of his young Manchester City team-mates Tosin Adarabioyo and Phil Foden back in 2018.

While Foden was covered in a positive light for buying his mother a new £2million home, Adarabioyo – who is of Nigerian descent – was said to have paid a similar amount for a "mansion…despite having never started a Premier League match", the headline seeming to suggest he was not worthy.

The unity and social consciousness of the current England squad has often been put down to Southgate's management of the team, though he pointed to Sterling's stance as helping him to open his eyes.

Continuing on the subject of taking a knee, Southgate said: "At the very least, this had to be a team where we were united on how we saw it and we could send a message to young kids watching that I think the lads maybe didn't realise how powerful that would be going into a tournament because they wanted to concentrate on the football.

"They want to be judged primarily on the football but what Raheem has done, in this space, in particular…. I remember you [Sterling] put the two articles out on how Tosin had been reported on as a young player and a similar sort of story with Phil, and the difference, and it was clear the way those things had been reported.

"So, there were a lot of things that happened over the last few years, including the incident with George Floyd, which I think led…it educated me a lot and I wanted to represent the players in the best way I could."

Gareth Southgate has been England manager for five years and says the memories of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign will stay with him "forever".

The former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender replaced Sam Allardyce on November 30, 2016, having held the post of Under-21s manager since 2013.

Southgate was initially appointed on an interim basis, but was handed the reins permanently after four games and has since led England to a World Cup semi-final in 2018 and the final of Euro 2020 in July.

England secured their spot at the World Cup in Qatar next year by topping their qualifying group, going unbeaten and conceding just three goals in 10 games in the process, leading to a new contract for the 51-year-old that runs until 2024.

"To take a country to a first final in 55 years, for everybody involved, for all the staff, all the players and for all the fans, some of those memories of Wembley through this summer will live with me forever," Southgate said to England's official website.

"[At the 2018 World Cup in] Russia, we brought a connection back with the fans. There were probably several generations of fans who had not been to a semi-final. This year was unique, really, when you think we had been locked away for so long and everything we had lived through.

"There is an important place for international football. It does bring everyone together. When you feel like you are there with 50 million people behind you, it is an immense feeling.

"People used to say 'well, nobody cares about international football anymore' but they did. I think everybody had just been hurt and disappointed a lot, and you almost don’t want to get hurt anymore and you withdraw from it.

"Now we have some generations of fans who think it has always been this way. Well, let me tell you, folks, it hasn't!"

Southgate gave some insight into the process of rebuilding a team that was low on belief and turning them into a side capable of challenging at major tournaments.

"Confidence was low [when I first took the job]," Southgate added. "This was not a group which was disunited, but there was a lack of confidence because of the last couple of tournaments and two changes of manager in a couple of months, so we needed to stabilise things to begin with and we needed to qualify for a World Cup.

"That was the priority but of course what we knew in the background was there was a younger generation of players coming through to support the guys who were already there that could provide real competition for places, with some good experiences of winning at junior level. 

"[They were] technically really good players that could maybe play in a slightly different way to traditional England teams of the past, where I was in tournaments with England where we couldn’t keep the ball enough.

"Now in the biggest games we have a step to go with that because we have managed that for long periods in tournaments but under real pressure, we still need to be better at that.

"You have to have continuity. You need a real clear sense of direction for everyone who works at St. George’s on the football and for everybody at the FA.

"I think it is a credit to everybody, the different chairmen and chief executives I have worked with here, that they have put football more at the forefront of their thinking and there has been a plan."

It took the man in the waistcoat to turn the tanker.

In a year's time, England will be at the Qatar 2022 World Cup with serious aspirations of bringing back the trophy. And while there are a number of key figures who have made that prospect realistic, nobody stands out quite like Gareth Southgate, who on Tuesday celebrated a five-year anniversary as manager.

Greg Dyke was a newly appointed chairman of the English Football Association (FA) when he declared in a famous 2013 speech: "English football is a tanker that needs turning."

He spoke that day of wishing to create an England team that could be successful on the world stage.

"The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022," Dyke said. Many duly scoffed.

Nine years on, England have ticked one box, with Southgate's team finishing runners-up to Italy at the delayed Euros; now, a nation expects as his squad bid to match Alf Ramsey's 1966 heroes.

 

A questionable choice?

It was not Dyke who selected Southgate after Roy Hodgson's four-year reign ended and successor Sam Allardyce lasted just one game, an ill-fated choice.

Indeed, as Dyke left his post at FA HQ in the summer of 2016, he questioned the appeal of the England manager's job, specifically asking "why anybody would want it".

Southgate was unsure initially too, albeit for a different reason, saying the role "wasn't something I think I've got the experience for". But his tune soon changed, with Allardyce's reign ending abruptly after a newspaper investigation within weeks of his appointment and the FA needing a steady hand on the tiller.

Southgate made 426 Premier League appearances in his playing career – more than anyone else with zero appearances off the bench. He was therefore not used to being deployed as a substitute, but on this occasion he accepted the chance to step in as a replacement.

His credibility for the England post had been questioned, with former Tottenham and West Ham boss Harry Redknapp dismissive of the notion that Southgate would know all about the English system.

"Knows what system? The losing system? He knows the losing formula? I like Gareth Southgate, he's a great lad," Redknapp told BBC Radio 5 Live, "but what's he done?"

Egyptian striker Mido, who played under Southgate at Middlesbrough, tweeted: "I can't believe that in England they are talking about @GarethSouthgate to become the new Manager!! I hope he learned since the @Boro days!!"

Even former Three Lions midfielder Jermaine Jenas balked at the prospect of Southgate's three years as England Under-21 manager being a suitable pathway to the senior role, instead throwing his support behind Glenn Hoddle.

In a column for Yahoo, Jenas said of Hoddle: "I know he has been out of the managerial game for a long time, but I certainly think he would be a better option than Southgate."

 

From scaredy cats to roaring lions

Dyke said Roy Hodgson's England were "just scared" as they lost to Iceland at the Euro 2016 last-16 stage, heading home humiliated by relative minnows. Hodgson promptly resigned.

"It's the same in all sport," Dyke said. "Really talented sportsmen can just freeze. That's what happens."

After the Allardyce interlude came Southgate's appointment as a caretaker coach, and British bookmakers swiftly rated him favourite to keep the job on a permanent basis, ranking Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew, Eddie Howe and Hoddle as next in line on the list of likely candidates.

As well as having managed the England Under-21 team, Southgate also previously held the role of head of elite development at the FA. Jenas might not have liked it, but getting not only a foot in the door, but both feet and an office to call his own, and the respect of a young generation of rising stars, made Southgate an obviously worthy candidate.

Wins over Malta and Scotland, and draws with Slovenia and Spain, earned Southgate an interview for the permanent post, and he impressed a selection panel that featured FA chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and chairman Greg Clarke – Dyke's successor – to the point he was handed the job permanently on November 30, 2016.

Southgate has been a revelation: England reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, losing out to Croatia, before surging through to the Euro 2020 title match, a first major final since Bobby Moore led the team to World Cup glory.

Along the way, the man who was a scapegoat for England's Euro 96 exit, when he missed a crucial semi-final shoot-out penalty against Germany, has become a national treasure.

"Southgate, you're the one" sing England fans nowadays, while his uptake of a waistcoat on the touchline became a symbol of stylistic significance at the World Cup in Russia, sparking a rush of high street sales and analysis by the fashion media.

The England boss told the BBC: "If you had said to the players when I started at Crystal Palace that I was going to be upheld as the sartorial model for the country, you'd have been hooted out of the training ground."

 

How has he developed a new England?

Once Southgate was handed the job permanently, he was able to outline his manifesto. "When I played, particularly in 1996, there were captains through the team that were captains of their club," he said.

The England starting XI for the fateful Iceland game in 2016 contained one club captain: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney. For the team's most recent game, the 10-0 drubbing of San Marino, Southgate named a defensive unit consisting of three club skippers: Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings, Wolves' Conor Coady and Manchester United's Harry Maguire.

Harry Kane captains England but not his club, Tottenham. Southgate rates him as a leader par excellence. Jordan Henderson has built up years of experience in skippering Liverpool and is another England regular and vice-captain of the team.

In terms of leadership, England have no shortage of on-field generals, the ideal complement to their burgeoning crop of talented, freewheeling youngsters. This is entirely deliberate.

Southgate also declared he wanted a team "that excites the public, that the supporters like watching and are proud of".

A competitive record of 44 wins, 14 draws and 10 defeats in 68 games gives him a winning record of 64.7 per cent. Of England managers with more than one game in charge, that is second only to Fabio Capello's 66.7 per cent (42 games, 28 wins, eight draws, six defeats). World Cup winner Ramsey achieved a 61.1 per cent win record from 113 games.

Southgate has explored his options and given debuts to 50 players, the most since Bobby Robson, who handed first caps to 64 players during his eight-year tenure.

Of the debutants under Southgate, Jordan Pickford has played the most games (42), followed by Maguire (41), Kieran Trippier (35) and Jesse Lingard (32). There have been 14 players who have won just one cap to date in the Southgate era, but among those are a number of players who might realistically expect to win plenty more, such as Harvey Barnes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Conor Gallagher, Mason Greenwood, Dean Henderson, James Maddison and Aaron Ramsdale.

Others seem likelier to go down as one-cap wonders, such as Dominic Solanke, Nathan Redmond, Jack Cork and Lewis Cook. But Southgate has rewarded players in form, cultivating an open-door policy within the England camp that can only be healthy.

Twenty of the debutants have been aged 21 or under, with the youngest being Borussia Dortmund livewire Jude Bellingham, who was 17 years and 136 days old when he featured against the Republic of Ireland in November 2020.

In total, Southgate has capped 83 players to date. There should be many more to come, with the manager recently signing a contract extension through to 2024

Kane, who made his debut under Hodgson, has made more appearances than any other player (50) and scored the most goals (43) during the Southgate era.

 

"Can we not knock it?"

That was the famous remark caught by documentary film-makers as Graham Taylor spluttered in frustration in the dugout at an England attack breaking down all too easily.

The game was a World Cup qualifier in 1993 against Poland, with David Bardsley lifting a long pass hopefully towards Teddy Sheringham, who could not nod the ball down into the path of Carlton Palmer. Taylor could not contain himself.

England's tactics were all too obvious then, subtlety not their strength, with overseas influences yet to seriously permeate the domestic leagues.

There has been progress in the years since, but even when Southgate came in, he felt England were too narrow-minded in some respects, saying he needed "to broaden the horizons" of his players.

"Because the lads see one league... they think we're the centre of the Earth and we're not," Southgate said. "That's what hit me. Other countries are quite happy to say nice things to us and then they pack us off home at a certain stage [of a tournament] and think, 'Good, we've got rid of them'. That's how it feels to me and I don't like it."

England perhaps still have some catching up to do, but Southgate is shifting the culture significantly.

This can be examined through the prism of World Cup qualifiers – Southgate's first campaign leading up to the 2018 tournament, and his latest, which saw England ease into the hat for next year's finals. In both campaigns, England played 10 games, winning eight times and drawing twice.

England are steadily learning to keep the ball and be patient, moving from 195 sequences of 10-plus passes in the 2018 qualifying campaign to 268 for the 2022 preliminaries, putting them second only to Germany among European teams, albeit Spain (253) in third place played just eight games.

They are achieving more high turnovers too, going from 82 in 2018 World Cup qualifying to 111 in their quest to reach Qatar 2022. In that aspect, England have jumped from ninth to third in Europe.

Hodgson's Euro 2016 squad contained players plucked exclusively from the Premier League, with his 23-man group including stars from 11 clubs.

Southgate's 26-strong Euro 2020 party contained representatives of 16 teams, including Trippier from Atletico Madrid and Bellingham and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund. Gone, for now, are the days of England squads being dominated by players from a small group of clubs.

 

Making Dyke's vision a reality

The acid test comes at major tournament level, and to date Southgate's England are showing up on the big stage – at least until it comes to the crunch. They stood widely accused in both the Croatia semi-final and the Italy final of retreating into their shell, having taken the lead early in each game and then failed to build on the strong start.

That is something Southgate must address and surely will. This is a technically gifted England now, with a coach who has brought more sophistication to the role than many expected.

All that being said, there are still aspects of England's play that perhaps hark back to bygone days. They played 391 long passes at Euro 2020, more than any other side, although this should not be a serious concern given that was only marginally more than champions Italy (363), and semi-finalists Denmark (340) and Spain (339) were not lagging far behind.

Old habits die hard though and England remain the kings of the 'launch' – defined by Opta as "a long high ball into space or into an area for players to chase or challenge for the ball".

They hit 125 of these in the Euros, with the Czech Republic next on the list with 96. Just 27 of England's launches were judged to be successful, and Southgate may reflect on the fact Italy played just 52 such hit-and-hopes on their way to the title.

There is always learning to be done, advances to be achieved. Such data will be monitored by England, with a view to sculpting a winning tactical model in time for next November.

"I like Gareth Southgate, he's a great lad, but what's he done?" was Harry Redknapp's question five years ago.

Turns out, rather a lot in a short space of time. The tanker has turned.

Gareth Southgate says it would have been "very difficult to live with" walking away from the England job with a potentially "very exciting" few years ahead.

England manager Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland on Monday signed new contracts until December 2024.

The former Three Lions defender will lead his country in the World Cup next year and attempt to go one better by winning the next European Championship in three years' time.

Southgate led England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and they were beaten by Italy in the final of the rescheduled Euro 2020 at Wembley in June.

The 51-year-old feels he has unfinished business after coming so close to winning a first major tournament since 1966.

He said in a media conference: "The reality is we had already agreed [to stay]. Although we didn't feel it right to announce things before we qualified for the World Cup we knew what we wanted to do.

"In football, when you have a team who are a good team and you've done a lot of the work culturally, where they are at a point where they can challenge, you want to have a go.

"We still believe that's possible [to win a trophy]. It's an aim we should have as a team. To step away at a moment when the next few years could be very exciting, I think that could have been very difficult to live with.

"If this contract is the last I think I would still only be 53 by the end of it and I'd like to think I have a long life to live after that."

 

He added: "There was never a consideration that I wouldn't go to Qatar. What I wanted to be sure of was that I was wholly committed beyond that.

"It is something I feel deserved time. The way it ended for us [in Euro 2020] took a lot of emotion and energy. We were so quickly into World Cup qualifying, I wanted to allow that time for consideration."

Southgate feels England have learned from the heartbreak of falling short in the past two major tournaments.

"I think the players are at a point now where they're getting lots of big match experience, we've had a couple of near misses which, while painful, are games we've learned so much from," he said.

"We have to be at the latter stages consistently. It's the process of winning for any team, we're starting to get to those latter stages consistently and we must continue to do that.

"The response from the fans and the nation has been incredibly fulfilling. There was a period I heard people saying they didn't care about international football but I think that was a case of being hurt.

"It's been unbelievably rewarding [uniting the fans]. The players care about playing for England, there are moments when they break, when they're under huge pressure, but we've been able to refresh the team and bring new players in and whoever we have selected has performed at a really consistent level."

Gareth Southgate has signed a new contract with England until after Euro 2024, at which point he will have been in charge for almost eight years.

While it remains to be seen what state the Three Lions are in at that point, it is fair to say their current trajectory suggests a positive outcome.

Shortly after finding himself moved into the top job back in 2016, Southgate surmised he had inherited "a mess" – yet, in the following five years England have come within touching distance of ending that long wait for silverware.

The drought has not been ended, and so Southgate's job is far from finished, but he has got at least another two opportunities.

And on the evidence of the progress he has made, there is much reason for hope.

September 2016

Sam Allardyce's reign as England manager lasted just 67 days, with the Three Lions playing one match in that period before he resigned in disgrace after being covertly filmed by a British newspaper while making a slew of controversial statements, which included talk of breaching FA rules.

Southgate, in charge of the Under-21s at the time, stepped into the breach in late September to assume a temporary role, leading England to a 2-0 win over Malta in his first game.

November 2016

England's form during Southgate's 'caretaking' was decent, if not spectacular, but the FA clearly saw enough promise in how he conducted himself and dealt with the players. He was appointed on a full-time basis on November 30.

In a real show of faith, Southgate was handed a four-year contract – and to be fair to all parties, there has arguably been nothing but progress since.

December 2017

The Three Lions qualified for the 2018 World Cup in convincing fashion, dropping just four points in their 10 matches as they finished eight points clear of second-placed Slovakia.

Southgate then received a massive vote of confidence in December when, shortly after being drawn alongside Belgium, Tunisia and Panama in Russia, then-FA chief executive Martin Glenn insisted the former Middlesbrough man would remain in charge regardless of how England fared at the World Cup.

July 2018

Although England finished behind Belgium, they cruised through their World Cup group. Colombia pushed them all the way in a gruelling, physical last-16 tie, but the Three Lions progressed via their first ever penalty shoot-out victory at the tournament.

They then saw off Sweden in the quarter-finals as Southgate became the first England manager since Bobby Robson in 1990 to reach a World Cup semi-final.

Hopes of ending a long wait for success that stretched back to 1966 were ended by Croatia, but at least Southgate had England fans dreaming again.

June 2019

The inaugural Nations League presented another opportunity for England to claim only a second ever international title at senior level – they finished top of their group and qualified for the Finals in Portugal.

A 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands ended their run, though their penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland at least secured them their first third-placed finish in a tournament since Euro 1968.

November 2019

Euro 2020 qualification was confirmed with an emphatic 7-0 win over Montenegro in England's 1,000th match, and optimism was swirling all around the Three Lions ahead of a tournament that presented the opportunity of potentially playing most of their matches at Wembley.

2020 was all set to be a big year for Southgate and England…

September-November 2020

Well, that did not quite work out... The coronavirus pandemic put Euro 2020 on hold for 12 months, meaning England were not in action again until September in the second edition of the Nations League.

This time, progression to the finals did not materialise as defeats to Denmark and Belgium proved costly.

June-July 2021

Euro 2020 finally arrived… in 2021… but it was still called Euro 2020. Semantics aside, there was much to cheer about for England as they reached a first major international final since 1966.

That run was built on the foundation of a solid defence that let in just one goal en route to the final – in fact, Jordan Pickford became the first goalkeeper in European Championship history to keep five clean sheets across the first five matches.

England's home comforts at Wembley almost certainly played a part, though ultimately Italy prevailed in a penalty shoot-out in the final following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Nevertheless, it was another positive step for Southgate's Three Lions.

November 2021

During the Euros, Southgate received another vote of confidence from FA higher-ups that he was going to have his contract renewed regardless of how well they did after the group stage, so Monday's announcement was hardly a surprise.

But the confirmation was at least held off until England had secured their place at Qatar 2022, with their World Cup qualification campaign culminating in back-to-back thrashings of Albania and San Marino.

But having reached the semi-final and final of their past two major tournaments, expectations will be sky-high for England in Qatar – it would be fair to say, anything short of a semi-final spot will be deemed a disappointment.

That in itself is testament to the work Southgate has done during an immensely positive five-year tenure.

Gareth Southgate has signed a new deal to extend his stay as England manager through to December 2024, the Football Association (FA) has confirmed.

It means Southgate will remain in charge for the Three Lions' World Cup campaign in Qatar next year, and oversee qualifying for Euro 2024.

Southgate's assistant Steve Holland has also penned fresh terms to remain in his role.

"I am delighted that Steve and I have been able to extend our stay in our respective roles. It remains an incredible privilege to lead this team," Southgate said via an FA statement on Monday.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mark, John and the board for their support – and of course the players and support team for their hard work. 

"We have a great opportunity in front of us and I know they and the fans are all excited about what this squad could achieve in future."

Southgate initially took on the role on an interim basis in September 2016 after Sam Allardyce's tenure lasted just one match and 67 days after he became embroiled in newspaper accusations that he offered advice on how to circumvent rules on player signings.

Two months later, Southgate was appointed to the position on a permanent basis and oversaw qualification to the 2018 World Cup.

In Russia, England achieved their best result in international football's most prestigious tournament since 1990 with a run to the semi-finals, where they were defeated 2-1 by Croatia.

England went on to secure a third-place finish in the inaugural Nations League Finals a year later, before easily qualifying for Euro 2020.

That tournament was postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic but Southgate then guided England to just a second ever major tournament final appearance, where his side agonisingly lost out in a penalty shoot-out to Italy after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in July.

Having regrouped to secure a relatively safe passage to Qatar, Southgate has been rewarded with a new deal.

The FA's statement added: "Southgate, who marks five years in charge at the end of this month, has overseen a period of positive progress guiding England to a FIFA World Cup semi-final and UEFA Nations League third place before securing the best men’s performance in 55 years with the UEFA EURO final this summer."

Under Southgate's stewardship, England have won 44 of 68 matches (drawing 14 and losing 10) giving him a win percentage of 65. They have scored 152 times and conceded 42 in that time.

Gareth Southgate has signed a new deal to extend his stay as England manager through to December 2024, the Football Association (FA) has confirmed.

It means Southgate will remain in charge for the Three Lions' World Cup campaign in Qatar next year, and oversee qualifying for Euro 2024.

Southgate's assistant Steve Holland has also penned fresh terms to remain in his role.

"I am delighted that Steve and I have been able to extend our stay in our respective roles. It remains an incredible privilege to lead this team," Southgate said via an FA statement on Monday.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mark, John and the board for their support – and of course the players and support team for their hard work. 

"We have a great opportunity in front of us and I know they and the fans are all excited about what this squad could achieve in future."

Southgate initially took on the role on an interim basis in September 2016 after Sam Allardyce's tenure lasted just one match and 67 days after he became embroiled in newspaper accusations that he offered advice on how to circumvent rules on player signings.

Two months later, Southgate was appointed to the position on a permanent basis and oversaw qualification to the 2018 World Cup.

In Russia, England achieved their best result in international football's most prestigious tournament since 1990 with a run to the semi-finals, where they were defeated 2-1 by Croatia.

England went on to secure a third-place finish in the inaugural Nations League Finals a year later, before easily qualifying for Euro 2020.

That tournament was postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic but Southgate then guided England to just a second ever major tournament final appearance, where his side agonisingly lost out in a penalty shoot-out to Italy after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in July.

Having regrouped to secure a relatively safe passage to Qatar, Southgate has been rewarded with a new deal.

The FA's statement added: "Southgate, who marks five years in charge at the end of this month, has overseen a period of positive progress guiding England to a FIFA World Cup semi-final and UEFA Nations League third place before securing the best men’s performance in 55 years with the UEFA EURO final this summer."

Under Southgate's stewardship, England have won 44 of 68 matches (drawing 14 and losing 10) giving him a win percentage of 65. They have scored 152 times and conceded 42 in that time.

Gareth Southgate insisted a new contract with England would not impact his side's chances of success at the 2022 World Cup.

Southgate was appointed as England manager in November 2016, leading the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia before making it to the Euro 2020 final in July.

The former Middlesbrough boss signed a four-year contract back in 2016 but had his stay extended to 2022 after England's positive showing in Russia.

That agreement is due to expire after the World Cup in December 2022, with reports suggesting he is expected to pen a new two-year extension to keep him at the helm for Euro 2024 in Germany.

As England head to San Marino on Monday needing just a point to confirm World Cup qualification, Southgate remained adamant that committing his future before the tournament will not disrupt plans for Qatar.

"You would never have a contract if you didn't judge somebody before a tournament, so I think on the back of two tournaments and progress made, that's a more acceptable sort of conversation to be having," Southgate told reporters.

"I think we have tried to do it professionally by focusing on the summer, professionally by focusing on qualification and then we will see where it leads after that."

Southgate was hired after Sam Allardyce's turbulent short reign over the Three Lions, though the Football Association (FA) had valued him long before that as he ascended to the top job after three years with the Under-21s.

Reports in September suggested Southgate had hinted he would be open to returning to club football at some point.

But, for the time being at least, the 51-year-old is solely focused on developing his young squad as they look to first secure qualification and then win their first major trophy since 1966.

"We have responded well to every hurdle that has been thrown at us across a calendar year in which we have had total contrast in terms of the quality of opponent we have played," he added.

"The mentality has been good. That is why in 90 minutes and extra time, we haven't been beaten.

"That is a record we want to keep building on. We have got the best defensive record in Europe, in terms of goals to games. We are fourth in terms of goals scored and chances created. It is a good challenge to try to improve on it [against San Marino]."

Gareth Southgate suggested pundits produce "quotable" takes to "stay relevant" after Roy Keane criticised Harry Maguire's celebration against Albania.

Maguire opened the scoring on Friday at Wembley, immediately racing to the corner where he cupped his hands beside his head before putting his fingers in his ears.

Former Manchester United captain and television pundit Keane criticised the celebration post-match, labelling the gesture as "embarrassing" considering the centre-back's recent club performances.

Maguire, however, remained adamant the celebration came "naturally" to him and was not about silencing critics, nor aimed at anyone in particular.

Southgate, who initially joked his defender's gesture was a wrestling reference, was again questioned on the topic and – while not naming Keane or Maguire – outlined pundits' tendency to work with headlines in mind.

"I think we always have to understand that, the industry we’re in, there are different roles, and in order to make a living in those different roles you’ve got to take certain approaches," Southgate said at Sunday's pre-match news conference ahead of the trip to San Marino.

"You have a choice about which type of approach you’re going to take [when working as a pundit].

"I was always thinking as an ex-player, ex-manager, recognising how difficult those things were, so I guess I had empathy for those that were stepping over the line to play and those that were in the dugout.

"It really depends on what you need to do to stay in work. Some channels or forums require headlines, some require a certain type of approach, everything's different. I understand that.

"To stay relevant in some of those fields, you've got to say things that are more quotable, and of course everything’s lifted now and used from the live broadcast for the next day’s headlines.

"Everybody in those shows knows that's how it works, and it fills a different part of our industry.

"Personally, as a manager, I get it and so be it. I'm sure the players might feel differently, they're younger and have less experience of those fields, but also they think [pundits] surely remember how difficult it was to play and probably didn't like it when they were criticised."

Gareth Southgate is hopeful Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish "won't miss too much football" after the duo withdrew from the England squad ahead of Monday's World Cup qualifier against San Marino.

The Three Lions' manager confirmed that both players suffered minor injuries in Friday's 5-0 win over Albania.

Grealish did manage to train the following day, but he has now returned to Manchester City for further assessment, while Henderson has headed back to Liverpool.

England only need to avoid defeat against the lowest-ranked team in the world to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Speaking at a media conference on Sunday, Southgate said: "With Henderson it was within the [Albania] game. With Jack, we think a little bit perhaps within the game, but he trained yesterday. As a precaution, we scanned them both, so there are small injuries on the scans.

"We just hope that they're not going to miss too much football ball from here on. It shouldn't be too bad in either case, but we just have to see how that progresses."

Southgate confirmed that Raheem Sterling has also withdrawn from the squad for personal reasons.

He also ruled Chelsea's Mason Mount (dental) and Manchester United's Luke Shaw (concussion) out of contention, with the pair having also missed the Albania game.

It was confirmed earlier on Sunday that Crystal Palace's on-loan midfielder Conor Gallagher has been drafted in from England's U21 squad for his first senior call-up.

Southgate insisted that both he and Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe – who made his senior debut off the bench against Albania – had been called up on merit.

When asked about older players like James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Patrick Bamford being overlooked, he said: "We haven't had an opening for a forward, and Patrick's been injured as well. In terms of the others, we think Conor and Emile are playing better than others that we could have called in, simple as that.

"The door is never closed. I like the idea of bringing young players in because you're investing in England's future.

"It would be easier perhaps in the short term to bring in an older player, but I'm not certain there are older players who are playing better than those two at this current moment in time in the positions they are playing."

Conor Gallagher has been rewarded for his fine form at Crystal Palace with his first call-up to the senior England squad.

The Chelsea-owned midfielder enjoyed a promising debut campaign in the Premier League last season with West Brom, impressing despite their relegation.

He won the Baggies' Young Player of the Year award and subsequently secured another temporary move within the top flight, joining Patrick Vieira's Palace.

At Selhurst Park, Gallagher has been a standout performer, earning a nomination for the Professional Footballers' Association's Player of the Month award for October.

A regular at under-21 level, Gallagher will link up with the senior squad in the hope of featuring against San Marino on Monday, with England requiring a point to seal their qualification for the World Cup.

Several players will not be available for Gareth Southgate, however. Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish have returned to their clubs for injury assessments, Mason Mount will miss out due to dental surgery, Luke Shaw has concussion and Raheem Sterling has a "personal matter" to attend to.

Nevertheless, it offers Gallagher a great opportunity to stake a claim with Qatar 2022 a little over a year away.

He was arguably unlucky not to be called up ahead of Friday's win over Albania, such has been his start to the season with Palace.

Gallagher has been involved in six goals, four of which he has scored himself, and created another 17 opportunities – no other Palace player can better him in any of those metrics.

There are also only eight Premier League midfielders to attempt more tackles (26) and complete more dribbles (12) than Gallagher this term, while his 65 wins in duels see him ranked third, evidence of the well-rounded qualities he will bring to Southgate's squad.

 

England manager Gareth Southgate has stressed clubs will need to be more cooperative than ever heading into next year's World Cup.

Following a 5-0 win over Albania, the Three Lions need just a point against San Marino next week to qualify for the tournament, which is being held in Qatar between November 21 and December 18.

With the competition being held in the middle of the European football calendar, the biggest competitions are being forced to take a hiatus in order to accommodate it.

On Friday, the Premier League confirmed the dates for the 2022-23 season, which will begin a week earlier than usual on August 6, and run until May 28, 2023.

The league will pause on November 13, meaning some national teams will have as few as eight days with their full squads prior to the World Cup's scheduled start date and the Premier League will then resume on Boxing Day, only eight days after the final.

Though the fixture list is set to be congested – a factor that was also seen to have a negative impact on player welfare in the 2020-21 season, which was condensed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Southgate believes the opportunity for players to have a longer break prior to pre-season training does provide some balance.

And he has called on clubs to work even closer with England's staff to ensure players are available.

"I think there's a balance there because even with the internationals in the summer, there is the opportunity for three or four weeks of rest and potentially three weeks of pre-season," he told reporters.

"What’s important is that there is a break at the end of this season. Next season is unique. Normally we go into tournaments picking up the pieces at the end of a season, but this will be during the season.

"The unknown is what will happen with the tight turnaround after the last league matches. Sometimes when you pick up any injuries before summer tournaments, you can sometimes have a few weeks to get things right.

"That won't be possible for any of the countries that qualify, so everybody is going to have to select their squad in a very short period of time. It is going to be key to get those decisions right."

Southgate, in turn, hopes to maintain the strong relationship he enjoys with the clubs of his players.

"I think, without a doubt, that medically we will hope to get the help of clubs because medically you can't always get the full picture until the players are with us," he added.

"Because the turnaround is so tight, we are going to need a bit more insight. The other side of that is that clubs have got their own schedules to run and we never want to interfere with players when they're in that situation.

"So I'm always respectful when they're competing with their clubs to pick the right moment to speak with them and visit.

"But every club has always allowed us that opportunity and we’ve got to make sure we keep that as much as we can."

Harry Maguire insists his goal celebration in England's 5-0 win over Albania "was not directed at anyone" following stinging criticism from Roy Keane.

Maguire raced off after scoring the opening goal at Wembley Stadium, sliding on his knees in celebration before cupping his hands beside his head and putting his fingers into his ears.

Former Manchester United midfielder Keane labelled Maguire's celebration as "embarrassing" in light of his recent performances at club level which have drawn criticism.

"When a player scores and puts his hands to his ears, he's like 'shutting the critics up'. But I think that's embarrassing," Keane said on ITV.

"He's been a disgrace the last few months at Man United. He thinks he scores there and he's gonna shut his critics up. Embarrassing."

Maguire was adamant that the gesture was not about silencing any critics, nor aimed at anyone.

"The celebration was a knee slide, it just came naturally to me," Maguire told Sky Sports News. "It's an amazing feeling to score for my country.

"It wasn't directed at anyone, it just came naturally to do that and open the scoring for England and get the important three points."

England manager Gareth Southgate also defended Maguire, who missed last month's international window due to a calf injury.

Is he a Hulk Hogan fan? I don't know what the celebration was for," Southgate said during his news conference. "He's a fabulous player, two months ago he was in the Euros team of the tournament.

"He's rushed back because he's the sort of player who has a huge conscience to help his club. You get lots of players who hide in the treatment room when pressure is on. He hasn't done that and I have massive respect for that but you can go into matches not fully fit and you're judged as fully fit in those moments.

"I've had a good chat with him this week, reminded him how important he is for us, he's been able to switch focus and have a few days on the training pitch which has probably helped, and his performance was very good."

Hat-trick hero Harry Kane was happy with the ruthlessness shown by England as they easily swept aside Albania 5-0 at Wembley Stadium to put themselves on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Five first-half goals from the Three Lions sealed the victory on Friday, meaning that Gareth Southgate's team need just a point from their final game in Group I against the lowest-ranked team in the world, San Marino, on Monday.

Kane has come in for some criticism at club level this season after scoring just once in 10 Premier League appearances for Tottenham, but he was back to his best for his country, scoring a perfect hat-trick, with a header followed by one with his left foot and one with his right.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live after the win, Kane said: "[It was a] great night for the team first and foremost. An important result for us and just the way we went about it.

"To go 5-0 up at half-time shows the character of the squad. We had a bit of a disappointing performance last time we were here at Wembley and we wanted to put that right, and we did that. A great night all round and we can look forward to Monday.

"We were looking to be ruthless all around the pitch, not just in the box or the finishing, we wanted to make it a tough night for them to show the country and the world what we are capable of and I think we did that.

"We will keep doing what we are doing, keep working hard as a team and a squad and hopefully keep improving. Still to get the job done on Monday."

On his own form, Kane was keen to dismiss the relevance of the noise around his performances after going level with Jimmy Greaves in England's all-time scorer list (44).

"Whenever I score I seem to be sharp, whenever I don't, I'm not sharp anymore. That is part and parcel of being a striker. The most important thing is we are moving forward as a team."

England boss Gareth Southgate was equally pleased with his team's efforts, and was understandably effusive about their first-half showing, saying to ITV: "The first half was fantastic, as well as we've played for a long time. It was hard to maintain that.

"We're best when we have an edge. We didn't produce what we should against Hungary, but we had a game tonight that could put us on the verge of qualification for the World Cup.

"I thought Harry gave a brilliant centre forward's performance - held the ball up, played other people in. HIs all-round game was excellent."

Southgate was also asked about rumours that he will sign a new contract. He responded: "We need a point [to qualify] and it would be wrong for my attention to be anywhere else. It's an irrelevance for me. I'm under contract, I'm very well backed and supported and my focus is just on getting qualification done."

England and Tottenham star Harry Kane believes he coped well with the transfer speculation linking him to Premier League champions Manchester City.

Kane was heavily tipped to join City, but a move did not materialise during the previous transfer window and the Tottenham forward has struggled for form this season.

The 28-year-old had initially not returned for pre-season training and while he has committed to Spurs for the time being, Kane has looked a shadow of his usual self in London, where Antonio Conte has since replaced Nuno Espirito Santo in the dugout.

Kane has scored only one goal in the Premier League – last month's 3-2 win over Newcastle United, while he has netted seven across all competitions this term, including five in the Europa Conference League.

On the eve of England's World Cup qualifier against Albania on Friday, Kane was asked about his Euro 2020 hangover.

"Obviously, there's a lot of talk and a lot of speculation over the summer, the first real time that probably happened to me in my career," Kane told reporters after featuring in England's run to the Euro 2020 final, which they lost to Italy.

"But that's part and parcel of learning, that's part and parcel of being a big player, having to deal with those situations. And I think I dealt with it well. And now it's just about focusing.

"There is still a long way to go at club level. And now, for me, it's just about finishing these two games strongly with England and finish off what's been a great calendar year."

Kane – whose Spurs are ninth in the table and six points adrift of the top four during the international break – added: "Whether I'm doing really well or the goals aren't quite coming, it's just to work hard, train hard, work hard for the team. And that's what I've done my whole career.

"Obviously, there's not been many spells, for example, for club not scoring as many as I've scored so far this year. But in terms of an England calendar year, it's been a great year for me personally, and I hope to continue that tomorrow night."

England face Albania in Group I, knowing a win would see them move within a point of qualifying for Qatar 2022, assuming second-placed Poland do not fail to win in Andorra.

Gareth Southgate's England are unbeaten in their last 18 matches in all competitions – their best undefeated run since going 19 in a row without defeat between November 1965 and November 1966.

This will be Southgate's 67th match in charge of England – the joint-most of any England manager since Bobby Robson left in 1990, equalling Sven-Goran Eriksson's tally between 2001 and 2006.

Southgate has already won more games (42) than Eriksson (40), with only Sam Allardyce (100 per cent) and Fabio Capello (67 per cent) having a better win ratio for England than Southgate (64 per cent).

Kane added: "It's always about getting back to the basics, getting back to the training pitch, working hard there and doing my best. Obviously, we play a lot of games throughout the year. There's not much time to recover and reflect on things.

"So any time you can just get on that training pitch, work on a few things, get back to what you know best is important, and that's definitely what I try to do."

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