Southgate faces final Spanish test as interim boss
A 3-0 win against Scotland at Wembley on Friday night has strengthened the case for Gareth Southgate taking up the post as permanent England manager. The Three Lions certainly rode their luck in the initial exchanges with Scotland wasting several very presentable chances before the heavy favourites showed a killer instinct in the final third.
There would have been a sigh of relief behind the scenes in the country’s footballing headquarters. Two wins and a draw from his interim spell in charge of the senior national squad is likely to mean the Football Association offer Southgate the position on a full time basis although there is still the small matter of a glamour tie with one of the best international teams in the world to contend with.
Spain visit Wembley on Tuesday, themselves in something of a transitional period following Vicente Del Bosque‘s retirement. The 65-year-old coach took La Roja to the pinnacle of the footballing elite and while they not be at the height of their powers following a disappointing couple of tournaments, they are one of few teams against whom England are underdogs in their own back yard.
Despite lacking the potency of a World Cup qualifier, this game should be played at something approaching a decent tempo and it will certainly be the most effective yardstick for judging what state the national side are in as they close out 2016, albeit it may come too late to adjust the identity of who leads the country into the rest of the qualification campaign for Russia 2018.
Barring an absolute mauling by the Spanish, it seems extremely likely that Southgate will take up the role which he publicly distanced himself from following Roy Hodgson’s departure this summer. The question now seems to be whether or not he is made to wait to find out his fate and when a decision is made, how much faith is placed in his relatively inexperienced hands?
Because of the hysteria around Sam Allardyce’s departure after just one game in charge and the short turnaround before the clash against Malta, the FA had little to no opportunity to consider any viable alternatives to Southgate, who was a natural interim appointment due to his role with the Under-21 side. Now though, the question is, how much due diligence will the organisation feel is appropriate?
England are not scheduled to be in action again until March when they visit Germany in another high-profile friendly clash. Theoretically, that could open the door for another candidate to come in and take up the job, although the majority of the likely candidates are either uninspiring or unavailable.
The former Middlesbrough boss has urged his employers to resolve the situation quickly but in an environment ruled by red tape and governed by committee, failing to consider any alternatives would only come back to haunt the Association should Southgate’s tenure take a downturn.
English football could certainly be in some sort of managerial limbo for a few weeks to come, especially if Tuesday’s result raises more questions over whether the establishment have identified the right man for the job.