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    England’s win over Ireland provided Gareth Southgate his chance to enjoy a rare 90 minutes of peace

    Gareth Southgate has found recent events difficult to deal with but England’s comfortable win over Ireland provided him his chance to enjoy a rare 90 minutes of peace

    • Gareth Southgate smiled before kick-off but it was not due to some happiness 
    • He knew however that soon he could devote his thoughts to nothing but football 
    • The more you see Southgate these days, the more you realise he looks weary 
    • Looking at Southgate right now, the England job feels anything but the best

    Gareth Southgate smiled but it had nothing to do with happiness. In the moments before kick-off, he was asked about the unrelenting news agenda.

    ‘I have got to focus on football,’ said Southgate. ‘So much of my time is spent not focusing on football these days. We have got to try to win this game.’

    There was another smile. Southgate knew the time was approaching when he could devote his thoughts to nothing else other than football.

    But he knew beforehand that he would have 90 minutes where football would be the focus

    England boss Gareth Southgate has found recent off-the-field events difficult to deal with

    It was his chance, if you will, to indulge in some escapism.

    Once the whistle blows, there is no need to think about embarrassing gaffes from pre-historic men in blazers or Covid-19 protocols or club tensions.

    The more you see Southgate these days, though, the more you realise he looks weary.

    The more you see Southgate these days, though, the more you realise he looks weary

    The more you see Southgate these days, though, the more you realise he looks weary

    Seeing him so visibly worn, the mind jumped back five years to the Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo. In November 2015, Southgate was manager of England’s Under 21s and in Bosnia for a European qualifier.

    His name had been linked to the vacant post at Fulham and he was asked about its appeal. The Under 21s had hardly played any games that season, with his best players often taken away from him.

    ‘Sometimes I miss the day-to-day (of club football) but I’m working with really good players and you mustn’t underestimate that,’ he said. ‘We’ve had to deal with an exceptional number of changes in last two camps. But the enthusiasm of the boys keeps you motivated and keeps it interesting.’

    Southgate continues to be excited about working with young talents such as Jude Bellingham

    Southgate continues to be excited about working with young talents such as Jude Bellingham

    But looking at Southgate right now, the England job feels anything but the best in the world

    But looking at Southgate right now, the England job feels anything but the best in the world

    Those words wouldn’t have sounded odd had he said them last night. Southgate continues to be excited about working with young talents such as Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho. 

    But it shouldn’t be underestimated how difficult Southgate has found recent events. You only had to see his reaction to when Harry Maguire opened the scoring. Usually there would be a punch of the air.

    This time, he simply clapped briefly and scribbled some notes. Being England manager has the potential to be the best job in the world. Looking at Southgate right now, it feels anything but.

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