England verdict: Three Lions secure biggest win for 57 years… and it's about time boss Southgate gets all the plaudits

THE 3,000 England fans inside Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle did not need to be told Gareth Southgate is the one.

Nor did the 200 or so ticketless others who made the 1,500-mile trip to watch the action from over a fence on a wet and muddy hillside.

Even the hosts’ PA announcer showed his love and admiration for the England manager by playing THAT Atomic Kitten song.

Yet, unbelievably, it appears many closer to home are still to be convinced Southgate is the right man for the job.

Even though he underlined his status as the greatest Three Lions manager since Sir Alf Ramsey with another World Cup qualification and their biggest win for 57 years.

However, while Southgate has no trouble winning international football matches, the widespread approval of his nation seems much harder to come by.

Listen to any radio phone-in, log into many message boards, look at some of the twaddle in the Twittersphere or eavesdrop into a conversation in your local pub or cafe.

There you will see or hear critics complaining about his picks, performances and personality, questioning his position and calling for him to be replaced.


They are the same people who no doubt scoffed at his starting line-up last night and said he was mad for picking Harrys Kane and Maguire.

Even this morning there will be those posting and pontificating that qualification for Qatar 2022 is no big achievement with the likes of San Marino and Andorra in their group.

And while they might be right in that Southgate’s men were favourites and expected to go through automatically, they would do well to remember there were also plenty of natives in Portugal thinking the same thing about their country’s campaign, and look how that has turned out.

There will no doubt be some moaning about last night’s result – whingeing why it was not 0-11.

Maybe that comes with the territory and Southgate himself is certainly not pleading for the nation’s respect and adoration. But it is high time he received it because he deserves it.

It is high time he received the nation's respect and adoration because he deserves it

He has served with nothing less than distinction since picking up the reins from Sam Allardyce five years ago.

Southgate’s record in competitive matches: P53 W35 D10 L8.

And with fourth-place at the 2018 World Cup, a third in the United Nations and, of course, runner-up at Euro 2020, he has turned England into a force at major tournaments again.

The assertion he has somehow lucked out with fixtures and the talent now at his disposal is utter nonsense.

Just like the accusation always aimed at him that he is only in the job because is a ‘Yes man’ to the blazers at the FA.

Southgate might be polite but he is definitely no patsy

Southgate might be polite and eloquent but he is definitely no patsy.

Just ask the absent James Maddison, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Dele Alli about the England manager’s ruthlessness and single mindedness.

Southgate has not only developed a formidable squad, he is evolving thanks to his knowledge in his previous roles with the Under-21s and head of player development.

San Marino felt the full force of it in the foothills of Apennines where Kane’s four-goal blast in 15-minutes helped fire the visitors into 6-0 lead at the break, giving the hosts a mountain to climb.

It is a little over eight years since the skipper hit a hat-trick here for Southgate’s Under 21s.

Kane and the rest of those inside the dressing room have never been left in any doubt as to who the boss is.

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FA chiefs also love Southgate and are desperate for him to sign a new contract.

Likewise, the diehards who have followed England over land and sea through thick and thin know how good they have it now under their current manager, compared to money-grabbing chancers such as Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The rest of the country now needs to do the same.

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