Don’t be afraid of Euro 2020 glory – Gareth Southgate fires up ambitious England

Gareth Southgate has told England not to fear their ambition of winning the European Championship.

The England boss insisted his players and the public must be allowed to “dream” about claiming a maiden Euros crown at this summer’s competition.

England will play all three group matches at Wembley, with the tournament spanning the continent, but Southgate has told his players not to take home advantage for granted.

England v San Marino – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group I – Wembley Stadium
England boss Gareth Southgate has pointed the way forward for his side at the Euros (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Southgate will name his 26-man tournament squad on Tuesday, with the England chief acutely aware of how the pressures and expectations will now rapidly ratchet up.

“I said ahead of the World Cup in Russia, we wanted the country to have pride in the team, and I think we achieved that,” said Southgate.

“Some of that is about results, and some of that is about the way the team connect with the fans.

“Now of course if you don’t win the matches then that pride isn’t there, that’s the reality.

“And of course now we’ve been to two semi-finals and we are as keen as everybody else to go further.

“So we understand expectations change, and we shouldn’t be afraid of saying we want to go and win.

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“We know there’s some improvement for us to do, we’ve started to beat some of the top teams over the last couple of years. We have to do that consistently.

“And if we’re to win this tournament, the way the draw looks, we would have to do that on two or three occasions.

“But as a team we’ve got to take it small steps at a time.

“Qualify from the group, get that nailed from a group with three very tough games and opponents in Croatia and the Czech Republic who have beaten us in recent times. But we’ve also done the same to them.

“And we all know what the game against Scotland means to everybody.

“So we have to allow everybody to dream, we want to dream ourselves.

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“But we’ve got to make sure we won’t just win because we’re at home, we won’t just win because we’re an exciting team.

“We’ve got to get all the parts right, and that’s got to be our aim.”

The Three Lions will kick-start their tournament preparations by hosting Austria in Middlesbrough on Wednesday, June 2.

England will then launch their bid for European glory by hosting Croatia at Wembley on June 13, before further Group D clashes with Scotland and the Czech Republic in London.

Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup, only to be toppled by Croatia 2-1 after extra time.

Harry Kane File Photo
England will look to lean on captain and Tottenham striker Harry Kane again this summer (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

The 50-year-old believes it is up to England as a collective to decide whether to treat public expectation as pressure or an opportunity.

“My one ambition when I was a kid was to play for England,” said Southgate.

“And I know now that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, statistically.

“So to have the opportunity to lead your country, and then into a major tournament.

“I’ve had the privilege to be able to do it once, and we now have a European Championship where some of our matches are at Wembley.

“So that’s quite a unique opportunity. It is an honour, and it is exciting.

UEFA Nations League 2020/21 Draw – Amsterdam
Gareth Southgate wants England to embrace the pressure this summer (Adam Davy/PA)

“And of course there’s an expectation, and we can build that into pressure if we choose.

“But that’s our own decision what that feels like, that’s our own voice in our heads.

“I’d rather be in a role where you can make a difference, where you can drive people to achieve something we haven’t done before.

“And we’ve only been to one European semi-final as a country, never mind to a final or winning.

“So we’ve a chance to be the first, and that is a challenge we should embrace.”

:: Southgate was talking at the launch of the #SignYourSupport campaign, which sees a giant England flag touring the country. Fans can sign online to benefit a Nationwide Mutual Respect Grassroots Football Fund. For every signature up to the first 50,000 fans, Nationwide Building Society, the FA Respect campaign sponsor, will put in an additional £1. Fans can sign their support at: nationwide-signyoursupport.co.uk