Reports by The Daily Telegraph’s investigation team over the past week have shone a light on an unedifying side of the sport, with allegations made against several high-profile figures.
Sam Allardyce was the headline casualty of the investigation following the publication of secretly-filmed footage showing the recently-appointed England manager making some controversial comments.
England U21s manager Southgate has been parachuted into the job for the final matches of 2016 and, while insisting he knew little about the details of the Telegraph investigation, is clearly disheartened about some aspects about the sport.
“I have to say I’m involved in a sport I love and an industry that at times I don’t like,’’ he said.
“The detail of what happened last week, I’m not too au fait with.
“I’ve heard names mentioned and bits of information but I don’t have the detail so I don’t think I can speculate about what might or might not have happened.”
The 46-year-old says there are “many different areas” of the industry he does particularly like, but the chance to improve England’s best players is his only focus.
“I started kicking a ball around with my dad and my granddad and my one aim was to play for England at Wembley,” Southgate said.
“I fulfilled that dream.
“I love the sport, I love watching it, I love taking part in it, so to be manager of my country, having played for my country as many times as I did, then I feel it is an honour and privilege and I am really looking forward to it. That is sport at its purest form. It’s what I love. Not just football.
“That challenge, having to go across the white line and put yourself on the block. That is what it is always about. I’m always drawn to the (Theodore) Roosevelt quote.
“That for me is what it is about, otherwise I would still be sitting (as a pundit) with Keano (Roy Keane) and Dicko (Lee Dixon) on the side!
“At times you have got to step forward and you have got to take a risk. You have got to put yourself in that situation. To be in that position is a privilege.”
The passage Southgate refers to is called ‘The Man in the Arena’ and was in a speech by former United States president Roosevelt.
It is about somebody being involved in a situation that requires great courage — attributes that appear necessary at a time when English football has been thrown into a tailspin.
Southgate is keen to now move away from the background noise of the past week and avoided expanding on the aspects of football he does not like, preferring to focus is on getting the team ready for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia.
Asked if he had any reservations about taking interim control, he said: “None whatsoever. None.
“I think experience gives you a feel of what is right at certain times. My feel was that this was a moment when it was right to step up and put myself forward.
“I felt best placed to do that. We have got to give the players the best opportunity to succeed in the three qualifiers coming up.”
Southgate had been reticent to replace Roy Hodgson in the summer and even three weeks ago said there were other things he wanted to do before considering the senior team role. The overwhelming bookmakers’ favourite says he is “not here to be a tourist” and insists he has yet to have time to think about the role beyond the upcoming matches.
“The job is a privilege,” he said. “I’ve not had time to think through (whether I want it permanently). Six days ago I was preparing for Kazakhstan and Bosnia, with a different squad, with a different support team (in the U21s).
“There’s been no time to think forward and actually I don’t think it’s right to think too far forward.
“I think it’s right to focus on what we’ve got to do this week, first and foremost, and then for the games coming up. Then everybody has time to breathe, the organisation has time to breathe. Then people will assess the job I’ve done.
“They’ll assess ultimately on results, but also from my point of view, it will be important to assess how we’ve dealt with every situation we’ve been put in.
“And then they can make a decision. I’m in a privileged position that I will then know a lot more about the role and everything that it entails. So that’s quite unique, really.”