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Gareth Southgate: from a tense style icon to an experienced, relaxed manager

Last weekend saw the Champions League final, marking the end of the club football season. While some clubs are still fighting for promotion or relegation, most footballers can enjoy their well-deserved vacation. But that’s not the case for everyone. The European Championship is on the horizon this summer. This time it is hosted in Germany, where England, alongside France, is seen as one of the favourites. GQ spoke with Gareth Southgate, the coach of the English team, about more than just football: topics included his iconic outfit at the 2018 World Cup, a fresh trim, and his management style.

Gareth Southgate

It is now Southgate’s third major tournament with The Three Lions. At the 2018 World Cup, Southgate drew attention and became unintentional a style icon. “Whenever you put something on, you’re making some sort of a statement, aren’t you? I am conscious of that now,” says Southgate, referring to 2018, when his waistcoats went viral. “This year, it will be more short-sleeved knits than a suit and tie, because we’re trying to create a relaxed environment,” he says. “When you’re working with young lads, you don’t want to be too stiff – in what you’re doing or wearing.”

And of course, a good outfit requires a sharp haircut. “The lads are quite obsessive about getting their hair cut the night before a game. I’ll have one more cut before we go, I think, because my hair gets a little bit curly, which I don’t like,” he says. “Plus my wife says I haven’t got the features to have it really short.”

”When we were growing up, we were bullied”

The manager has been at the helm of the English national team for eight years. Southgate is now an experienced manager and, like the entire football world, has undergone significant development during this time. ”When I started with the seniors, I was still a fairly inexperienced manager. Now, eight years on, I’ve managed some of the biggest games in world football. Plus the tactical element of the game has evolved in England over that period. You’re aware the type of young people coming through is different to the generation of players who are retiring. There is a generation gap between the guys who were 34 and the ones who are 17, 18 now – how they learn, what type of meetings they’re used to, phones, how they receive information.” And that is not the only thing that has changed… ”When we were growing up, we were bullied, really. Maybe that’s too harsh, but the coaches were very critical. That gave me a real toughness that has helped in my life, but there’s a flip side to that, where you don’t feel the freedom to play. As soon as you made a mistake, boom, it was highlighted. Whereas now we highlight the things that go wrong more when we win than when we lose. And when we lose, you’d be picking out the positives a little bit more.”