Gareth Southgate: We must use free time sensibly

Gareth Southgate has warned England’s players they cannot afford to take liberties with free time on international duty.

The 46-year-old became the Three Lions’ third permanent manager of a turbulent year on Wednesday, penning a four-year deal following an interim stint in charge.

The high point of that four-match spell was a 3-0 defeat of oldest foes Scotland in World Cup qualification, but the subsequent break led to the lowest ebb as pictures emerged of Wayne Rooney looking the worse for wear.

England’s captain was not alone and other squad members were reportedly seen out, leading free time to be reassessed as Southgate starts to implement his ideas.

“Where I will be clear is that there is a level of expectation when you are with England,” the new manager said.

“We talk about pressure and we spend most of our time trying to relieve it, so if we put ourselves in positions where we are going to increase that pressure it is not intelligent.

“I think it is important as a playing squad and group of staff we recognise that and we want to be a top team, so if we want that everything has to be geared towards improving.

“The way we look after ourselves, there has to be time to unwind, there is a time to have a glass of beer or wine, but that has got to be done at the appropriate time and at the right level if we aren’t going to inhibit the way we perform.

“If we think we are good enough to play against the best and give ourselves a slight handicap along the way, good luck with that.”

Southgate has plenty of time to review the current set-up given his first match in permanent charge is not until March.

The 57-cap former defender intends to create a “high-performance culture” — one where he does not believe draconian rules will work but clear “lines of what is acceptable and what isn’t” will.

Southgate used the All Blacks as an example to follow yesterday, when his unveiling meant a meeting with England rugby union coach Eddie Jones had to be postponed.

Australian Jones has questioned the leadership culture of a team that required a curfew after the controversy surrounding Rooney and Co, with 13 straight Test wins after a miserable World Cup suggesting a level of ownership and accountability within the rugby ranks.

“You’ve got to have that switch-off, every elite sportsman has got to have that switch-off,” Southgate said.

“But to what degree that is and what that looks like, does need some ... I won’t say ‘management’ but, come on, how good do we want to be?”


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