Football: Healing power of pizza

Glenn Moore hears Gareth Southgate explain why he went for the deep pan
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At times this week Glenn Hoddle's men have seemed more like a therapy group than a football squad but it was still a surprise to hear Gareth Southgate, one of the most rounded members of the party, admitting that he, too, had succumbed.

However, Southgate did not sit down with a counsellor or pyschiatrist - he shared a pizza with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle.

The occasion was the infamous Pizza Hut advertisement based on the trio's penalty-kick misses against Germany. Each cost England a place in a final of a major championship and they have been criticised for apparently profiting from their failure.

Southgate was thus anxious to defend himself before leaving for Georgia with England yesterday. "If it was about money I could have cashed in 10 times over," he said. "I had numerous offers to do adverts, exclusives for papers, photo shoots, but I didn't want people to take the view I was cashing in on ruining the summer.

"I now feel I have got over the situation as best I can and I wanted to show that. My life has changed and I've realised a lot of things are more important than what happened in the summer. I've had letters from disabled kids, things which help you appreciate your position. If missing that kick is the worst thing that ever happens to me I'll be very fortunate.

"It was quite a good therapy session for me, sitting down with Stuart and Chris and talking about it. I refused at first but Damon Hill and the Underwood brothers [rugby union's Rory and Tony] had done similar ones. They show you can laugh at yourself."

Southgate is one of the outside contenders for the captaincy in the wake of Alan Shearer's injury but he said: "I think there are more experienced men than me. After the way I played against Poland I will be happy to just be in the team. It was the hardest game I have had for England and I was just getting into it when I was injured and had to go off."

The advertisement, incidentally, has already cost Pizza Hut one customer. "I doubt if I will ever be able to go into one of their restaurants again," Southgate said.

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