Gareth Southgate: The middle-aged crush with a ruthless, nasty side

There’s two sides to England manager Gareth Southgate – don’t be fooled by the Mr Nice Guy image!

Friday, 9th July 2021, 1:24 pm

Sitting outside a colonoscopy appointment with the love of his life, munching on a scotch egg in dignified silence may not be how half the nation views man of the moment Gareth Southgate

Nipping out in his pyjamas before his wife goes to work on a winter’s morning to scrape frost off the windscreen and warm the car up? Maybe.

There’s the polished, public view of Mr Nice Guy. The middle-aged crush of housewives up and down the country.

There’s the polished, public view of Mr Nice Guy. The middle-aged crush of housewives up and down the country.
There’s the polished, public view of Mr Nice Guy. The middle-aged crush of housewives up and down the country.

And then there’s the tough, ultra-professional, Mr Nasty who will make big ruthless decisions to lead his country to glory.

Two sides of the coin.

Southgate has been trending on social media the whole of Euro 2020. Every decision he makes, every team selection that drops, is met with a fierce debate. Why has he started Raheem Sterling? Where is Jack Grealish? Too negative, too boring. WHERE IS JACK GREALISH???

In the aftermath of the the win over Germany, however, it was a different form of trending comments which took over Twitter as middle-class women unleashed their hidden lust for the man whose waistcoats whipped the nation into a frenzy back in 2018.

And then there’s the tough, ultra-professional, Mr Nasty who will make big ruthless decisions to lead his country to glory.

Comic Madeleine Brettingham started it with one simple, humorous tweet, opening the floodgates to a deluge of tender longing (interspersed with some filth, it must be said).

She tweeted: "Gareth Southgate is the ultimate middle-aged crush. I just want him to drive me to a colonoscopy appointment then sit outside eating a scotch egg in dignified silence.”

Cue a pile on from women who thought good old Gareth would be the perfect man in their lives

“He tapes the Allen keys to the back of the furniture with a bag containing any spare screws so they’re always on hand if he needs them. He goes round every six months to tighten the screws up” tweeted @LittleLorrie1.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, eh Gareth?

It’s not just with suburban middle-aged women that the 50-year-old is winning over. Plenty football-weary, battle-hardened males are crushing on the bearded wonder too, now.

It wasn’t always the case. Appointed as a ‘safe pair of hands’ in 2016 after the Sam Allardyce fiasco, initially on a caretaker basis, Southgate has had to win over the doubters who decried him as just a FA suit, only getting the job because he won’t upset the apple cart, will say the right things and deliver the right words in front of TV cameras and journalists.

Southgate has done that, and more. His poise, calm persona and modern-thinking around mature, socially-conscious young footballers has changed the culture around the England camp. An arm around the shoulder, a laugh and a smile, a relaxed atmosphere fostered among players from different backgrounds and club rivalries.

Don’t be fooled by the Mr Nice Guy image though. You don’t get to be manager of England without having an edge. You don’t bounce back from the ridicule and crushing blow of missing the crucial penalty in a semi-final shoot-out without having steel, determination and a strength of character.

Southgate has never shied away from making the big decisions. In just his second game as manager, he effectively ended Wayne Rooney’s international career, calling time on the country's record goalscorer. He’s axed the likes of Chris Smalling, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and, briefly, Trent Alexander-Arnold, resisted calls to give more game time to Jack Grealish, kept faith with Raheem Sterling and been bold on selection decisions including blooding the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Bakayo Saka when people were shouting up the merits of other contenders.

If any decision summed up his absolute ruthlessness, though, was the call to hook Grealish against Denmark. The Aston Villa man had been introduced as a substitute late in the second half but after England went ahead in extra time, the substitute himself was replaced as Southgate opted to bring on an extra defender in Kieran Trippier.

There’s few more demeaning things for a player than being substituted when you are a substitute yourself. But for Southgate, it was all about what is best for the team and if it means upsetting an individual, he still won’t hesitate.

Roy Keane is no stranger to upsetting people and the ITV pundit hailed the England manager’s ‘nasty side’.

“He (Gareth) is a nice guy, but you have to be nasty to work at this level,” said Keane. “Jack will have to look at the bigger picture. Gareth is nasty enough to make these decisions, as we saw tonight.”

It was a verdict echoed by Alan Shearer, Southgate’s team-mate on that fateful night at Euro 96.

“A lot of the country was shouting for Jack Grealish to start but Gareth has resisted that. He put him on last night to try to change the game and then when England scored the second goal he takes Grealish off and leaves Sterling on who is absolutely shattered.

“There is a nasty side to Gareth and he was spot-on to do that but you can’t tell me Jack Grealish isn’t angry, hurt and disappointed.”

No more Mr Nice Guy. Maybe he wouldn’t help change that bedding after all!