Gareth Southgate has admitted his future as England manager will depend on how the Three Lions perform at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The coach heads into this winter’s competition under heavy fire with just one game left to change the rhetoric ahead of the tournament as they take on Germany on Monday night – LIVE on talkSPORT.
The clash at Wembley Stadium represents Southgate’s last chance to see their players in action before deciding their World Cup squad, and the pressure is mounting after a dismal drop in form.
England are winless in five games and suffered the humiliation of relegation from the Nations League First Division as they lost 1-0 to an under-strength Italian side on Friday.
Few could have predicted this fall after what the Three Lions have achieved in consecutive tournaments by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup and losing runners-up at Euro 2020.
Southgate has been key to England’s rise since coming on to replace Sam Allardyce in 2016, and last year he was rewarded for the nation’s recent success with a new contract until 2024 .
But things didn’t go to plan in their preparations for the World Cup, with home and away defeats to Hungary and then the result against the Italians appearing to sap the players’ confidence.
The spotlight has been shone on the manager during his side’s dismal run, and Southgate knows his future will be dictated by England’s World Cup performance rather than previous success, or the two years remaining on his contract.
“I’m not stupid,” said the England manager ahead of the Germany clash. “My only objective at the moment is to prepare the team for [Monday] night.
“We focus on a good performance, a good result, then you turn to the World Cup. And I know that ultimately I will be judged on what happens at this World Cup.
“Contracts are irrelevant in football because managers can have three, four or five year contracts and if the results are not good enough you accept that it is time to part ways.
“Why would I be different? I’m not arrogant enough to think that having a contract should in any way protect me from the results.
The Football Association remain supportive of the boss, but Southgate knows how shaky that can be when supporters are unhappy.
“I’m absolutely grateful for that,” he said of the FA’s support.
“But of course we understand how the mood changes with the results, and it has changed.
“I’m realistic about it. I will be judged on what is delivered to Qatar and I am perfectly happy to be judged that way.
“History is history. You are judged on the next game and you are judged on the next tournament.
“Look, I’m lucky to be now, unfortunately, in my 50s, I’ve been in football for 30 years.
“In one form or another, I participated in 12 tournaments. It will be my seventh as a player or manager, so I have seen almost everything.
“I saw the cycle of war with the media. I saw the absolute love-in. We’re somewhere in the middle of that – or maybe not quite in the middle! It’s fascinating to watch from my side.
“And that’s a life experience that I knew at some point would probably come with this job, so I have to accept that.”
England play their last game before the World Cup against Germany at Wembley on Monday, when Southgate hopes the fans will support the players no matter how they feel about him.
“We have 90,000 people, the stadium is full,” Southgate said ahead of the Nations League dead rubber. “People want to come and watch this team play.
“It’s because the players have done an incredible job for six years.
“We were in the middle of a really tough time, in terms of fan relations, at the start of this journey.
“Little by little, we built the [tournament] finishes that have already been discussed in this room.
“Of course it’s not healthy for the team to have that noise around them. I completely understand that.
“But it’s up to me to take my responsibilities, it’s up to me to allow them to go and play. I want them to feel freedom.
“I think they know that we always talk about it on the training ground and on the training ground.
“I urge the fans to support the team. The way they treat me at the end or anytime, in phone calls or whatever, is completely different.
“But it’s their last chance to see the boys before they go to the World Cup and we’re all in it together.
“We can only succeed if we are all pushing in the same direction and if we all have this positive energy to do well.
“What happens to me is irrelevant, frankly. It’s about the team. The most important thing is the team and the success of the team.
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