Gareth Southgate keen for return to football amid speculation over England Under-21 role

The former Middlesbrough manager is the favourite to replace Stuart Pearce

Former Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate is keen to find a route back into football as he believes he has become a better coach since his sacking at the Riverside.

The 42-year-old, the Football Association's former head of elite development, has been linked with the current vacancy with England Under-21s after Stuart Pearce's contract was not renewed following a disappointing European Championships.

And while he would not speculate on his interest in Pearce's old job he has clear views about how youth football should be developed and was not as dismayed with the performances of the Under-21s and Under-20s this summer as some were.

Pearce's side lost all three matches to leave Israel early while the Under-20s, coached by Peter Taylor, left the World Cup without a win.

"I have a passion for coaching and that or management is something I want to go back and do," Southgate told Press Association Sport at the handing over of a brand new kit to Stafford Rangers Under-13s on behalf of Lichfield Bristol Street Motors as part of the Vauxhall Youth Programme.

"I don't think it is right to comment on individual jobs. I've been linked with club jobs in the past and at odd times spoken with clubs but I've never discussed that.

"They are things which should be private but at the moment I don't know what the process is on with that particular (Under-21) job.

"I don't know what sort of person they are looking for or what the role will be: whether it is just managing the team or with other requirements as well.

"At the moment I work for ITV and they've been good to me. I don't like it when people tout themselves for jobs."

Southgate has not had a coaching job since leaving Boro, whom he left in fourth place in the Championship, within a point of top spot, but insists that was mostly his decision.

He has used his time out of frontline football wisely, alongside to his television pundit's job, to further his education and believes he is a better coach and person as a result.

"I felt I needed to go away and work on the areas where I felt I needed more knowledge to improve myself as a coach and improve my experiences of life," he added.

"I felt I needed a break because I went straight from playing to managing.

"When you have managed for three years in the Premier League that is quite draining and when it's your first job it is a difficult experience.

"But I took a hell of a lot from it and four years on I have watched hundreds more matches, been on many more courses, watched coaches around the world and am much better than I was when I went into it before.

"As a coach you are always looking to learn and progress and I've done a lot of learning in the last four years and I am very confident of my abilities in terms of what works to build an elite team."

Southgate's views on England's junior teams differs from many, who watched with surprise this summer as they failed to perform at their respective major tournaments.

"It depends on how you look at things. If neither team had qualified we wouldn't have been discussing it," he said.

"Brazil didn't qualify for the Under-20 World Cup this year but no-one is going to suggest Brazil are in the same position with their seniors.

"Results-wise you can read too much into youth football. England have qualified for the last four under-21 tournaments and we've been the only country to do that.

"Whether the sides have played in a style which has allowed the players to come on and develop is open to debate but you can't judge everything at those age groups on winning.

"There is a balance and Spain have managed to achieve the ideal over the last couple of years as they've had team after team that have played attractive football, developed individuals and won but no-one else has a record like them at youth level at the moment.

"We can't just look at the results in relation to those teams."

PA

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