SAMUEL: If Southgate does not want it, there's always someone else

MARTIN SAMUEL: If Gareth Southgate does not want to carry on as England manager, there is ALWAYS someone else. He shouldn’t leave feeling guilty. He has fixed a lot and has let nobody down

  • It is not Gareth Southgate’s job to plan for his own succession as England boss
  • There is always a better man if the incumbent doesn’t actually want to be there
  • Southgate has been brilliant and completely changed the culture of the team
  • But the England job is a fantastic opportunity with plenty of contenders  
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Gareth Southgate has fixed a lot for English football these last six years. It is not his job, however, to fix the succession. If he wants to go, he should go.

The idea of persuading him to stay because there is no alternative is not just unfair, but muddle-headed. There are plenty of reasons to retain Southgate, but that is the worst. It was advanced when Joe Root wanted to give up the England cricket captaincy, too, and look where we are now.

Last April, Root standing down was considered disastrous. Ben Stokes was thought too emotionally fragile for the responsibility, other candidates were too inexperienced or lacking the ability for Test cricket. Everyone could see the job was draining Root but felt equally conflicted by the alternatives.

Gareth Southgate’s future as England manager is undecided after their World Cup exit

Turns out, there was a better man. There always is a better man if the incumbent doesn’t actually want to be there.

If Southgate has reached the conclusion this is the end of the road, shake his hand and wish him well. Don’t make it harder than it already is. He shouldn’t leave feeling guilty. He has let nobody down.

Eddie Howe and Graham Potter are the obvious candidates for the job and, equally, presumed not to be interested because of great opportunities in club management. Still, try them. There is a world of difference between shunning a post you haven’t been offered and turning down one when it is presented.

Being a candidate is very different from being presented with terms and conditions. Every manager will be mindful of ending up like Harry Redknapp, who was presumed to be the next England manager after Fabio Capello and made no secret of the job’s appeal. Ultimately, the FA went with Roy Hodgson and Tottenham sacked Redknapp that summer, irked by his perceived disloyalty.

Nobody is falling for that again. And if Howe and Potter genuinely aren’t interested, someone will be. It’s the England job. It’s fantastic.

Eddie Howe (left) and Graham Potter (right) are potential candidates for the England job

Lots of pressure, lots of expectation and thankless at times. Yet if there was a club that gave a man the chance to work with Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Jack Grealish — and let’s stop there because otherwise we might as well name the squad — who wouldn’t take that?

And what if you got it right? What if you became the guy to unlock this last part of the puzzle, to win England’s first trophy since 1966? What was it Jose Mourinho said about Porto once he had delivered the Champions League trophy? ‘Beautiful blue chair, up there, God, and after God, me.’ That’s what it will be like for the next victorious England manager.

We’re forgetting, too, how Southgate got here. He was a battlefield promotion at a time of embarrassment and crisis. England lost the last guy after just one game, Sam Allardyce becoming the Liz Truss of national managers. There were no obvious candidates and the FA just wanted safe hands.

From the outside, Southgate was considered an unimaginative promotion. A company man, the touchline equivalent of an FA blazer on a stick. The FA were so sure they had made the right call he did his first four matches in temporary charge.

And he’s been brilliant. Changed the culture around the England team. Brought through and trusted young players. Got to within a penalty shootout of the European Championship trophy, to within semi-final extra time of a World Cup final.

Southgate was an unheralded choice when he took the role but has done brilliantly

He lost in the quarter-finals here only because England had the misfortune to meet France, probably the best team in the world, at that stage. It happens. You can be the second-best team in any competition, but meet the best and you’re probably going out. Think Brazil in 1982. Ended up in a group with Italy and Argentina, lost to Italy, the eventual winners, and went home. Some still argue they had a better team than in 1970.

Southgate was an England Under 21 manager who took the senior team further than any coach since Sir Alf Ramsey. Who knew he had that in him? Maybe Lee Carsley, the current Under 21 manager, has it in him, too. Maybe he has it to go one better.

Maybe he is sitting there now with a PowerPoint presentation that will revolutionise the way England play; or maybe Steve Holland is. He’s Southgate’s assistant. Credited with many of the smart strategic ideas that have got England this far.

Mourinho and later Antonio Conte both won titles at Chelsea with Holland on the staff, but his only managerial experience is a brief spell at Crewe. Does that matter? We cannot know.

Lee Carsely is well respected and could go on and become a top manager 

Didier Deschamps is a World Cup winning player and manager, who also landed titles at Marseille and Juventus. Joachim Low was a journeyman player between Germany’s top two divisions, and had as many failures as a club coach as he had successes. He became Germany’s assistant manager because he met Jurgen Klinsmann on a coaching course and they had similar ideas about how the game should be played.

When Klinsmann quit after two years in 2006, Low got the job and later became the first coach of a European team to win a World Cup in South America. Meaning there is no sure way to the top.

Carsley or Holland may have as many good ideas as Howe (below) or Potter. Yet Carsley’s candidacy opens up another interesting discussion. Who gets to be English? The FA are reluctant to appoint a foreign manager again, we know that. But who is foreign in football’s cosmopolitan world?

Carsley was born in Sheldon, to the east of Birmingham, and came through the youth ranks at Derby. He played for six clubs and coached four more, each one in England. Yet at 21, with no sign of international recognition at home, he was called up by the Republic of Ireland’s Under 21 team, qualifying through his grandmother, who is from County Cork. Carsley went on to make 40 senior appearances for Ireland between 1997 and 2008. And he’s English.

Brendan Rodgers has done a great job at Leicester and could be tempted by England

Another contender may be Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest. As coach of England’s Under 17 team he reached the final of the European Championship, losing on penalties to Spain, before winning the World Cup with a squad that included Foden, Jadon Sancho, Emile Smith Rowe and Conor Gallagher.

Yet Cooper was born in Pontypridd, played in Wales his entire career, managed Swansea and — international football aside — worked outside England until joining Forest in 2021. Yet if he can manage England’s age group teams, why not the seniors?

And this brings us to Brendan Rodgers, and the true complexities of what constitutes a foreign or British coach. Rodgers is from Carnlough in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. He played for his local club, Ballymena United. Then, at 18, he was signed by Reading.

Injury soon curtailed his career but he continued to play semi- professional in England and came through the coaching system here. He has subsequently been employed in the English leagues, save for three seasons at Celtic. Rodgers could be an excellent England manager, so long as the FA see him as English. It’s a minefield.

The FA may now regard their dalliances with foreign coaches as a mistake but their choices — Sven Goran Eriksson and Capello — were two people who had never worked a day in English football and were obviously drawn by financial and professional incentives.

What of, say, Mauricio Pochettino? Indisputably Argentinian, but who — in six years in English football with Southampton and Tottenham — brought through more players for England than any other current coach. What about Thomas Tuchel, who chose to work in England and would still be doing so had it not been for the arrival of Todd Boehly at Chelsea?

Southgate should not have to work out a succession plan, that is for the FA 

Arsene Wenger did 22 years at Arsenal, which is longer as a coach in English football than Howe and Potter put together. Yet asked why he always rejected the overtures of the FA, Wenger explained quite simply: ‘I am French.’ So the list of candidates available grows or shrinks according to the definition of an English manager. It could be the FA are fishing in a shallow pool; it could be they are spoiled for choice.

What is clear is that this is not Southgate’s conundrum to solve. If a football nation as wealthy, powerful and influential as England cannot produce a succession line of gifted coaches without needing to plunder the product of rival institutions, that is on those in charge, not a humble employee.

Either way, it is no reason to keep Southgate if he has no desire to stay. He more than did his bit. Now the FA must do theirs. And if the challenge is too great, it’s the system that really needs to change course, not the current manager.


It is an appalling tragedy for his family and all who knew him that Grant Wahl, a highly respected American sports writer, passed away during Argentina’s match versus the Netherlands last week. 

He was a slim, athletic 49. A pity for the hosts, too, that his death was immediately met with conspiracy theories about foul play. Then again, if you will detain people for wearing a rainbow T-shirt, that stuff tends to happen if they later end up dead at your World Cup.

Grant Wahl, the American journalist (above), passed away during Argentina vs Holland


Morocco have been a wonderful surprise package at this tournament — yet in a way there remains a logic to their progress. An Arab nation going further than any African, or Arab, country have done at the first World Cup held in the Middle East? It figures.

There is a lot to be said for feeling at home during a tournament. When the World Cup was in South America in 2014, Uruguay and Costa Rica qualified ahead of Italy and England, Chile beat and eliminated Spain, Mexico made it past Croatia and Cameroon, and hosts Brazil, Colombia and Argentina topped their groups.

Ghana would have become the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final in 2010 in South Africa, were it not for a penalty miss in the last minute. Croatia were the first eastern European nation to reach a World Cup final since Czechoslovakia in 1962 when the tournament was held in Russia in 2018, and the last two tournaments in Europe have seen all eight semi-finalists produced by UEFA.

Morocco have been great value but there success is not a massive surprise 

Given the sights, the smells, the initial heat, the call to prayer, not to mention the growing local pride and support, Morocco will have felt totally at home in Qatar. 

France, of course, will be strongly fancied to beat them and it would be arguably the greatest shock in World Cup history were Morocco — who haven’t progressed beyond the quarter-finals of even the Africa Cup of Nations since 2004 — to reach Sunday’s final. 

Yet, what other countries might find alien about a World Cup in the Gulf will pass Morocco by. Home advantage does not just start and end with the hosts.

Soldiers will stand in for Border Force guards at Heathrow and Gatwick, due to strikes over the Christmas period. Don’t panic. If the experience of the London 2012 Olympics is anything to go by, the service will be improved.

Back then, security contractors G4S messed up and failed to provide sufficient numbers of officers to process ticket-holders and keep sites safe at various Olympic venues.

Several thousand military personnel were deployed to cover. They were magnificent. Unfailingly polite, reasonable, approachable, professional; passing a baggage check point run by the Army was an entirely different experience from normal. Perhaps it comes from facing real danger because it means they have perspective.

They know a spectator carrying a bottle of water that is not the sponsors’ brand really isn’t the most terrible occurrence that could happen that day.


There was quite the backlash when it was pointed out that, the beauty of Lionel Messi aside, Argentina are not the easiest group of footballers to like. Yet the footage of Leandro Paredes brutally fouling Nathan Ake, before lashing the ball at the Dutch bench and jogging away to avoid the resulting confrontation — not seeing Virgil van Dijk on his blindside and getting spectacularly barged to the ground — is one of the defining sequences of this tournament. 

No, the Dutch are not angels. Few teams are. Yet, there was a slyness about some of Argentina’s actions in the quarter-final that not even the romance of Messi’s last dance could overcome. His pass for the first goal that night is one of the greatest things you will ever see on a football pitch; but you may have to hold your nose for the rest of it.

Argentina are a side with plenty of slyness and it can make them tough to warm to 

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