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What happened to ‘Southgod’?

OPINION: After the heatwave, the waistcoat and the World Cup, we’ve gone cool on the England football team

13 September, 2018 — By Richard Osley

England boss Gareth Southgate

IN my youth I was mostly into cool things, cooler things than you, but at different ages I also liked Frogger, the tennis player Gabriela Sabatini, Sleeper and the rarely-talked about Dickens novel, Barnaby Rudge.

Embarrassing as that list may seem now, all of these things were at one stage the most important things ever, only to quickly fade in importance as the next crush came along.

Everybody has done the same, briefly magnifying the value of something without sensible reason.

The bloke next to you on the bus as you read this newspaper was obsessed by baseball and wore the cap of a team he was never going to see play; the woman on the back seat, still looking sheepish, can be forgiven for liking Red Dwarf.

You are doing it right now with leopard print, seitan and the Bodyguard series. These obsessions come and go, but never as fast as the love I had for Gareth Southgate this summer.

In that heady heatwave, I loved his waistcoat, I loved his smile, I loved his conductor baton dance, but I – and maybe you too – have quickly realised I was drunk on the World Cup and the idea that, having been provided with the easiest route through the tournament any team could have wished for, that England were going to win it.

Bring on the Nations League this week, and I feel like I’m still on the longest walk of shame, backtracking on the warm things I said about Gareth.

I had referred to him in these pages as “Southgod” and wondered aloud about how the statue of this World Cup winner would look outside Wembley Stadium.

When the Nations League match came around on Saturday, I didn’t even switch over to watch England play. I sat there watching irritating people I’ve never heard of – a YouTuber – introduce themselves as the new contestants on Strictly Come Dancing.

In the space of a few short months, it has become more interesting to stare at a screen which is showing Blue’s Lee Ryan explain how excited he can be about sequins than Southbore prattle on about the importance of youth in his side.

I’ve come the full circle, back to wondering what this man’s qualifications for the England manager’s job is; what did he ever win at club football?

Before this week’s match with Spain, the fixture was promoted as some sort of homecoming for our returning heroes, but the honest facts are that Southgate’s England only won one more match than they lost at the World Cup, that balance tipped only by a random penalty shootout win.

This summer romance was a deceit. I’m never going back to him… until the European Championships at least.

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