Gareth Southgate has insisted that England are conscious of always displaying humility, amid more accusations of arrogance, with some of the Scottish players known to be seeing it as a motivation.
Andy Robertson stoked a lingering issue by saying that it doesn’t feel like his side are sufficiently “respected”. Southgate insisted that wasn’t the case, and that his players only have the right type of confidence.
“I’ve never felt I’ve been involved with an England team that didn’t respect Scotland and didn’t appreciate how difficult the games were going to be. Certainly to talk about the team now, that’s not how they are,” Southgate said on the eve of their Euro 2020 meeting at Wembley. “They know the quality of players they’re playing against. They’re obviously team mates with some of those players, so they know exactly what they’re capable of. I think, these players, they do have a level of humility that is really important. We pride ourselves on it.
“We have got to have confidence. We can’t be shrinking violets going into an experience like this one, so we’ve got to be prepared and not undersell the event. But also we don’t want to overplay that in the minds of the players. We want them in the performance state where they’re focused, where they’re ready for the challenge, but also that we go and play. We have to go and play. That’s the key to starting the game.”
Southgate did admit that it was an early match against Scotland that ultimately fortified his will to become full-time England manager, as he went on a surprisingly emotional speech about taking life’s chances. The former under-21 manager had taken the job on a caretaker basis after Sam Allardyce’s sacking in autumn 2016, and a 3-0 win over Scotland at Wembley helped his thinking after an uncertain start. England had only beaten Malta 2-0 and drawn 0-0 with Slovenia in Southgate’s first games. A 3-0 win over Scotland was a first significant moment.
“If we had not beaten Scotland – you’re right – you would not be speaking to me here,” Southgate admitted. “Also, that moment for Scotland was a difficult one – they were in the middle of a bad run of form and that fell quite kindly for us as a fixture.
“I felt we played well on the night but we were in the really early stages of getting the team to resemble what we truly believed and what the consequences of more time coaching the team allowed to happen.
“What persuaded me was that the players were willing to adapt to the approach that we had and embrace the way we wanted to play and the way we wanted to work. The win just allowed that to happen.
“On a personal level, by the time we got there I felt it was a job I wanted even though I was never going to say that publicly. But I knew having worked with the players and having had a closer insight into the workings of the job it was something I wanted to go for in my life.
“I had kind of regretted not having had a go at it and would never have known what might have been possible. That is not a good position to be in, in your life.
“When we saw what happened with Christian Eriksen the other day, it was just another reminder that you have got to go for things in life and give them the best possible shot.
“At least when you’re finished, you don’t have regrets about things you did not have a go at or performances that were inhibited. We have got to go for it.”