Gareth Southgate: England manager fears for young, wealthy players

Gareth Southgate
England have won two and drawn two of Gareth Southgate's four games in charge

England manager Gareth Southgate fears young players are not reaching their potential because they get "big money for achieving nothing".

Former England Under-21 boss Southgate, 46, says youngsters thinking they have "already made it" is a "concern".

However, he believes "top" players will still come through - because they have drive and determination.

"If you don't have that inner drive there's a danger you'll never be a top professional," he told the BBC.

The 2016 Global Sports Salaries Survey found the average basic wage of a Premier League player was £2.4m a year, or £48,766 a week.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has spoken in the past of young players being made "rich before they have played one Premier League game".

And Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham are among the clubs to have capped the earnings of young players in an attempt to make them focus on their football.

Southgate, who played 57 times for England, also told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme:

  • England need to show more humility
  • He wants to take pressure off captain Wayne Rooney by finding more "leaders"
  • He wants to help his players become mentally stronger
  • He wants to excite England fans - and make them proud of their team

'Concern' for young, wealthy players

Southgate, who took charge after Sam Allardyce's departure in September, is concerned by the amount of money paid to young players before they become first-team regulars.

He cited Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi as the type of players who are "not distracted" by money as "their desire is to win trophies and be the best player they can be".

He said: "The very best players have that drive and that's why they get to the top. The concern is for any young player at an academy, who's not quite made it in the first team, but thinks they have because you get big money for having achieved nothing.

"If you don't have that inner drive, there's a danger you'll never actually get to be a top professional or be a first-team player.

"For a short period of time that won't have any impact on them financially, but in years to come they could look back and have huge regrets."

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi
Ronaldo and Messi are widely regarded as the best two footballers in the world

'Rooney responsibilities have to be shared'

Southgate has said Wayne Rooney will remain as England captain, though the Manchester United forward, 31, was only a substitute for the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia in October.

Southgate, who captained Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough during his playing career, wants Rooney's team-mates to "step forward".

He added: "In the team I played in at Euro '96, there were probably seven of us who were captains of our clubs. You need strong characters, not only to make decisions but when the game's going against you.

"At different moments you've got to have different people take that lead, whether that's being brave enough to take the ball or talking to the others, getting them mentally back on course.

"A lot of that responsibility over the last few years has fallen on Wayne Rooney's shoulders; that's got to be shared, that's got to be developed and that's not just on the field but off the field in particular."

Southgate added he had already seen "potential leaders" in his four matches in charge.

England captain
Joe Hart (left), Jordan Henderson (centre) and Gary Cahill have all captained England

'I can discipline people but that has a short-term effect'

England players have been banned by the Football Association from having nights out while on international duty.

It came after newspaper reports several players were at a nightclub in the early hours of the morning after the 3-0 win over Scotland in November. Rooney, meanwhile, was pictured with members of a wedding party at the team's hotel.

Southgate said players are "far more dedicated" than during his career - and he should not have to control them.

"We live in a world where everyone has a camera phone, everybody has access to social media and anything you do is out in a very public manner very quickly so players have to recognise that," he said.

"You set a culture, an environment and the players have to be involved in that. I can discipline people, but that has a short-term effect.

"A disciplined life in sport is when an athlete or a player decides how they're going to commit themselves to their training, commits themselves to living their life, and you're letting your team-mates down if you don't adhere to that. For me, it's not controlling the players - the environment should create that."

Southgate as England manager
8 October 2016: England 2-0 Malta
11 October 2016: Slovenia0-0 England
11 November 2016: England 3-0 Scotland
15 November 2016: England 2-2 Spain

'Mental peaking is key'

Southgate, who played for England at three major tournaments, says one of his priorities is to develop the mental strength of his players.

The Three Lions, then under Roy Hodgson, went out of Euro 2016 at the last-16 stage with a 2-1 defeat by Iceland.

"When I was playing, we went into tournaments as one of the favourites, and over the last few years we've been going in hope rather than as one of the top-ranked teams," said Southgate.

"Tournaments will always be at the end of the season so we have to get the physical load right in the way we train, maintain fitness levels at the highest possible but also maintain freshness.

"The mental peaking is key and there are things we can work on to help that develop. Mental resilience is generally a product of the experiences you have been through in your life and some of those will be on the sports field and some outside of sport.

"We cannot just rely on the 10 or 12 fixtures a year, we have to develop that."

Southgate wants to excite England fans

Marcus Rashford
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, then aged 18, scored on his England debut in May

Southgate signed a four-year contract in November after four matches in interim charge.

The deal will take him through the 2018 World Cup and 2020 European Championship, the final of which will be at Wembley.

England have not reached the quarter-finals of a major competition since Euro 2012, and Southgate wants to make fans of the national side proud.

"People will judge our success on the outcome of European Championships and the World Cup," he said.

"But, for me, every time we get together we have to get better. If in two years' time we've got a team that excites the supporters and they are proud of, we're heading in the right direction."

Southgate said the style of play his players adopted was "important" but acknowledged "ultimately we have to win".

"There is a desire to play a possession-based game. I think our top teams are playing in a fashion with a high-pressing game, so when players come with England why would we ask them to do something completely different?" he said.

"There's also a desire to excite the public - we are in a sport where people pay a lot of money to come and watch and they want an England team that excites them.

"We've got some really exciting potential - we've got some very exciting players to come through."

'No fear - just opportunity'

England are 13th in the Fifa rankings, and have not been in the top five since March 2013.

Southgate says some "humility" would "not be a bad thing".

"We're 13th in the world rankings and at the last two tournaments we haven't got through a knockout game," he added.

"There are some obstacles we have to overcome but for me that's a great opportunity and the potential is huge.

"I don't have any fear in what lies ahead because I'm just seeing what's possible. How do we go to being the number one team in the world?

"We've got to deliver, we've got to work hard, we've got to work intelligently. I'm looking at what's achievable, I'm not thinking about anything else."

'Now's the moment to step forward'

Gareth Southgate
Southgate became the third man to manage England in 2016 when he replaced Allardyce

Hodgson, who resigned following the shock defeat by Iceland in June, last month told Sportsweek the England job had left him scarred.

"I can understand that because I had that when I lost my job at Middlesbrough as a young coach," Southgate said.

"The things that don't go right will always be there as part of your life but it's how you respond that determines what you're going to be as a person and coach. We would ask our players to rebound from those moments and to be stronger for them - that applies to coaches as well."

Southgate says he had no reservations about taking the job, and his family are "fully supportive".

"My wife's lived through my playing career so she's suffered enough over the years - so what's to fear?" he said.

"One of the outcomes of the playing career I had is that I was disappointed not to win the things I wanted to. I won a few trophies, I won some caps, but not as many as I wanted to.

"You always want to prove people wrong, you want the opportunity to show people you have the resilience to bounce back from those things.

"It's about what's possible, what's achievable - otherwise why would you take on any role? There's a moment where you feel all the experiences in life you've had, now's the moment to step forward and lead."

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