England news: Gareth Southgate will aim for Premier League return if England job falls through

Former Middlesbrough manager open to top flight return if talks with the Football Association are not successful

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate will seek to return to Premier League management if he cannot agree terms with the Football Association over the England job. Southgate is set to resume negotiations after completing his four-match audition for the England job, but warned that he did not see England as his only possible next option if he does not get the job.

Southgate managed Middlesbrough for three seasons in the Premier League, from 2006 to 2009, but would love the chance to return to managing there later in his career, after this spell working in international football.

“I want to manage big matches and I have proved I can do that,” Southgate confirmed, when asked on Tuesday night if he could see himself back in the Premier League. “Wherever it is going to be, I would like to be coaching for a period of time. That is going to require some different challenges at different times.”

Although Southgate took over as Middlesbrough manager over 10 years ago, he pointed to his early successes against Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho, but said that he knew he needed to improve in international football.

“In my early managerial career, I went toe-to-toe with a number of managers,” Southgate recalled. “My first win was against Mourinho, I had wins against Arsenal and Liverpool under Rafa [Benitez] so I knew how tough it could be at times. I had also experienced the defeats and ultimately, in my third season, relegation. 12th and 13th are decent finishes and I know how difficult that was.”

“I took a decision that I needed to go away and learn and improve,” Southgate said. “Maybe I could have thrown myself back into League football at the time but the under-21s was a cause I believed in and I need to be involved in projects that I wholeheartedly believe in. That is why I went the route I did.”

Southgate is the overwhelming favourite to take over as England manager, and FA chief executive Martin Glenn confirmed that he believes Southgate has improved as a manager over his last few years in charge of the Under-21s, saying he was a “different manager” thanks to his time in the England set-up. 

“I won’t be drawn on leading candidates but Gareth is a really strong candidate and clearly after the last four games his candidacy has become much stronger,” Glenn said on Wednesday. “Not just based on one or two matches, but because of what we’ve seen over the last couple of years. He’s got renewed confidence and is a different manager to what he was two years ago. So it is not all about assessing him on a few games, you have got to see it more in the round.”

Glenn spoke positively about Southgate’s results in the England job, two wins and two draws that look set to win him the job full time. “I am very pleased with the last four games,” Glenn said. “We had important wins against Scotland and Malta and a hard fought draw against Slovenia. Undoubtedly out of the four games Gareth has looked after the Scotland game was the most critical. Because it is a local derby, where the form book goes out of the window. It was good to win so well and by such a wide margin, with some clinical finishing. It was a great feeling to get three points further on the qualification path.”

Southgate said that whether he gets the job or not, he is pleased to have taken the national team for four games since Sam Allardyce’s shock resignation. 

“I feel immensely proud,” Southgate said. “They have been terrific games to be involved with – especially the two this week, which were fantastic occasions but completely different challenges. One, had the pressure of not only being an international and everything that involves, but also all the consequences. And the other was a high-level tactical challenge to prepare the team for. There were complete contrasts through the two lots of 10 days. But that has been excited – I’ve loved it.”

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