World Cup 2022: Gareth Southgate should remain England boss because he has unfinished business – Alan Shearer


I have no doubt at all that Gareth Southgate should stay on as England manager to take us to the 2024 European Championship.

I know he hasn’t delivered the trophy we wanted in Qatar, but we have to look at the bigger picture.

Not only about how we have played at this tournament but also the progress we have made during his six years in charge.

We were a shambles when Southgate took over in 2016 and it had felt like we were going nowhere. We had been a laughing stock under Roy Hodgson at the Euros earlier that year and then had to contend with the embarrassment of Sam Allardyce’s exit when it had felt like things could not get any worse.

What next for England and Gareth Southgate?
Compare that to where we are now, after the amazing experiences we have had at three major tournaments with Southgate, and it is probably why losing to France hurts so much.

We thought we could win this World Cup because of what we’ve done under him in the past, and also what we had shown at this tournament. We were serious contenders for many reasons and Southgate was behind all of them.

After reaching the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and the final of Euro 2020, going out in the quarter-finals might look like a backward step but we are definitely heading in the right direction with him at the helm.

We are a better team now than we were in either of those two tournaments, even though we haven’t gone as far this time – and there is far more to come from these players.

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It will be down to Southgate alone whether he stays or not. No-one at the Football Association will tell him that he has to go, which I think is only right.

No other England manager has taken a team to more than three major finals since Sir Alf Ramsey [four between 1966 and 1972], and Gareth understandably wants some time to reflect on his future before thinking about another campaign.

But I really hope he decides to carry on to the next tournament as well, and hopefully he feels he has unfinished business with this exciting young England team.

They all appear to like him and respect him, and they seem to enjoy playing for him as well because of the environment he has created in his squads.

He has got the best out of them in Qatar, but they will feel like they could have gone further and I think it helps that their chance to put that right – at the next Euros in Germany – is only 18 months away.

We start the journey to those finals with our first qualifier against Italy in March, in a repeat of last year’s final. We should line up with the core of players who have played so well here, and Gareth is still their leader.

He has been criticised before now for some of his tactical decisions in big games, but I don’t think he could or should have done anything differently in our defeat to France.

My only disappointment is their winning goal came from a cross, something I mentioned in my last column as being a big part of their game.

I thought France’s approach might suit our centre-halves and full-backs, who deal with those sort of deliveries every week, but ultimately that is how the game has been decided, with a wily old fox like Olivier Giroud finding a yard of space in the box.

‘When you give everything, you can hold your head up high’
On the plus side, we went toe to toe with the holders and favourites to win this World Cup, played well and created lots of chances. It just wasn’t meant to be.

We lost, but we gave everything and when that happens you can hold your head up high.

I got a similar feeling after my England team lost to Germany in Euro 96 and then Argentina at the World Cup in France two years later. We also worked so hard and played in pulsating matches which were intense contests that were decided by the finest of margins.

After both defeats I came away thinking ‘we could have won that’ and feeling all the hurt that goes with such a narrow defeat – even though, when I thought about our performance, I was proud and there were reasons to be positive.

So I know how much this defeat will be hurting the England players right now, especially Harry Kane after his late penalty miss.

I feel for Harry, but that is the life of a top striker. You always have to put yourself forward for such a huge moment. You can’t score with every chance you have, but some chances are bigger and mean more than others, so that one will hurt like hell.

It will probably haunt him for the rest of his life, but there is nothing he can do about that.

The biggest penalty I ever missed was for Newcastle against Sunderland in 2000 – and I still think about it now.

This World Cup was there for the taking
We are left with what-ifs, rather than thinking about England winning this World Cup, but I do believe we had a genuine chance when I look at the teams left in the tournament, because it really was there for the taking.

Croatia have only won one game in open play so far and do not have much happening up front. Argentina are not a great team either, although they do have Lionel Messi which is why they have always have a chance.

Morocco, whom England would have faced in the semi-finals, are well organised and dangerous on the counter-attack but I would have backed us to beat them.

Instead, we are going home, but I am sure the younger members of our team can use this experience to help them the next time we reach this stage.

So many of them had memorable moments to take away from this tournament, but it was Jude Bellingham who stood out for me as our outstanding player.

Bellingham is only 19 but, right from the start, his performances were so mature and he showed he is not afraid of anyone or anything.

He is one of the reasons the future is so exciting for England. This World Cup goes down as a missed opportunity, but we will go into the next Euros as one of the favourites, I am sure of that.


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