What a lovely chap Gareth Southgate is writes David Evans.
It’s not like us to write something that isn’t about Wolves, on a Wolves related website.
But with the World Cup coming to an end, I wanted to put down a few words about England’s summer in Russia and the waistcoat warrior known as Gareth Southgate.
England’s semi final defeat to Croatia caused heartbreak across the land. It was the day the dream died.
A dream we didn’t think we had but grew during the last few weeks.
It’s a dream that that perhaps hasn’t ended, but has only just begun.
There were two key moments of this World Cup for England and Gareth Southgate which I feel that can resonate with all of us.
“I’m going home, the long way round.”
The final words of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who in the show’s 50th anniversary episode.
Why? I’m linking it below.
Gareth Southgate will probably say, if he ever has, that he has defeated his demons from Euro 96.
Missing THAT penalty against Germany to knock England out of the competition.
A Tuesday night against Columbia would be the moment he would finally confront it, head on.
England faced another penalty shoot-out. This time Gareth Sougthgate would not be part of it on the pitch, or could not control what happened.
But he had worked hard off it to prepare his players the best he could.
Eric Dier’s winning penalty provided a moment of ecstacy and relief for England, as a team and as a nation.
A curse had finally been lifted.
You could tell from Gareth Southgate’s reaction that perhaps he had finally vanquished his.
How fitting that the man who seemingly started a chain of events, (England’s failure at penalty shootouts) one he wouldn’t realise he would start, would be the one to end it.
There was a beautiful image created by Reuben Dangoor after this game:
It depicts Gareth Southgate, in pain of missing his penalty at Euro 96, being comforted by his present self.
This picture really spoke to me on how poignant this image is on life.
Throughout life we will come through knocks, and for some of us we might hit a low, even rock bottom.
We will look at these moments and think ‘How will this get any better? Will I recover from this?’
This answer is yes.
It won’t be easy, there may be more hard times and knock backs ahead. But with hard work, perseverance, determination and some spirit, you will get there.
Things will get better.
You will recover and you will find your way back home.
Once the dust settled on this manic evening Gareth Southgate may have looked back at that night at Wembley.
He may have thought about that distraught version of himself, and wanted to put his arms around his shoulders and tell him what lied ahead.
On 3rd July 2018, 22 years after that night in London he finally got home. Just the long way round.
Success isn’t always the result
Defeat to Croatia in the semi-final of the 2018 World cup was the end of a dream.
A side entered this World Cup with no expectations, but delivered a revival.
This was a side no longer filled with ‘celebrities’, but a cultured and humble set of players that all ages could relate to. A representation of modern England.
Perhaps we went over the top with ‘It’s coming home’, but we were allowed to dream and we truly thought our mantra was coming to light.
We may look back at it as a missed opportunity, a chance for glory, but rewards of the journey we took are just as grand.
England have given the nation a summer to remember. They in the space of a few weeks united fans from all teams, and even non-sport lovers to one common cause.
They have rejuvenated interest in the national side, and proven that England is no longer in the shadows of international football.
England’s tournament success may not be defined by its materialist goal, but it will hopefully be defined by its long term legacy.
Fans and the media didn’t see this side as another failure, but a side the country can be proud of.
This side, these boys, were once again ours. They were us on the field.
Praise on England and Gareth Southgate following defeat reminded me of the ending of Cool Runnings.
The bobsleigh team captured the imagination of not just a nation, but the world. Their crash in the final may have ended their underdog hopes, but they gained the respect and admiration of a community.
They showed that no matter the background, anyone with belief and hard work can achieve anything.
This is what this side has achieved, and once the initial pain of this defeat has gone, they will realise the impact they have created.
Defeat won’t define them, but their desire and unity will.
In our everyday lives we might not get the goal we yearn for. It might take years, or decades to achieve it. We might have to settle for something that’s a bit different.
But sometimes in life, the goal we want isn’t the measure of true success. It’s the impact we make along the way.
The people you work with, the relationships you make. Those who you help and support. The dedication and determination you show in your efforts. The small wins you create on your journey.
It might not get you to where you want to be, but when you turn back and look, you might find that you have achieved more than what you set out for after all.
England and Gareth Southgate have inspired a generation. Even in defeat.
Why can’t you?