If Gareth Southgate is going to walk after the Euros, he should announce it now

England manager Gareth Southgate - If Gareth Southgate is going to walk after the Euros, he should announce it now
Gareth Southgate and his England players may benefit from him announcing - Getty Images/Ryan Pierse

Each game England now play at the European Championship could be Gareth Southgate’s last as manager. And if his mind is already made up, then the best way to remove the shadow that has been cast over his team might be to announce it.

That is not to say Southgate should leave his job mid-tournament, but telling everyone he will do once the Euros are over may just change the “unusual environment” he spoke of after having plastic beer cups thrown in his direction at the end of the draw with Slovenia.

This would not be an Arsène Wenger or Jürgen Klopp-style long goodbye, as England only have around two weeks remaining in Germany even if they somehow go all the way. But giving the news his critics so clearly want appears to be the only card Southgate has left to play to try to remove some of the toxicity being felt by his players.

Southgate effectively conceded that, in the eyes of a growing number of England fans, he is the problem. The critics have not fallen out with the players or the national team, they have just fallen out of love with him for now – or maybe they have just grown bored of him after eight years in charge.

The 53-year-old is much tougher than outsiders give him credit for, as proved once again by the way in which Southgate clapped the England fans inside the Cologne stadium and lingered long enough for some to throw plastic beer cups and give him a piece of their minds. He did not flinch at all as two of the cups landed near his feet.

So he will not want sympathy and he stressed after the Slovenia game that he would much rather be there to take all of the flak that might otherwise be directed at his players.

Southgate has power to change the narrative

But the narrative around Southgate has already become a sideshow and the only way for him to change that would be for him to tell the public that the knockout stage of the Euros, however long it lasts, will be his last hurrah.

There is no rallying call or message he can now deliver to change the environment around the England team. Until he either goes or people know for sure that he will go, then the snipers will always be ready.

Given how far he has dragged England up from the despair of the defeat to Iceland in 2016 and the memorable nights in Russia, at Wembley and in Qatar, even the staunchest of ‘Southgate Out’ protesters would surely find it hard not to offer him a fond farewell in Germany.

Attitude of fans can change quickly – ask Wenger or Moyes

Look how the mood instantly turned into misty-eyed reminiscence of all the good old days under Wenger, when he announced he would be leaving Arsenal before the end of the 2017-18 campaign. And the West Ham United fans screaming for David Moyes to go at the end of last season soon started singing about the club’s Europa Conference League triumph again once the Scotsman’s departure was confirmed ahead of the final two games.

Liverpool faced accusations of losing their focus after Klopp announced his exit, despite a League Cup final success, as they fell out of contention for the Premier League, Europa League and the FA Cup.

Sven-Goran Eriksson effectively had a long England goodbye following the fake sheikh scandal that sealed his fate before the 2006 World Cup, where his side lost in the quarter-final of in Gelsenkirchen – the scene of Sunday’s round of 16 game.

But this would be a short goodbye for Southgate and, just as supporters would surely want him to go with their best wishes, players who have benefitted so much from his England management, such as Harry Kane, Jordan Pickford, John Stones and even Jude Bellingham, would redouble their efforts.

Southgate in danger of being remembered as ‘nearly man’

This is Southgate’s fourth major tournament in charge of England and, judging by what happened in Cologne and his general demeanour, it seems almost inconceivable it will not be his last. He almost quit after the World Cup in Qatar and has so far shelved all talk of an extension to his contract that is due to expire in December.

Southgate admitted to German media ahead of the tournament that this summer’s Euros are effectively win or bust for him. But performances, results and reactions mean that seems to have become win and bust – or, even worse, just bust.

This is not about trying to artificially manufacture a way in which for Southgate to leave with his head held high, regardless of results. He knows better than anyone that in the eyes of some, he will always be viewed as a nearly man if England do not win the Euros, whether or not he tells the nation he is off at the end of them.

Instead, it is about trying to release some of the toxic pressure around him that Southgate admitted is being felt by England’s players. Otherwise, the “unusual environment” threatens to become increasingly uninhabitable.

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