The best ppg record of any England manager at major tournaments – is Southgate undervalued?

England v Spain in Euro 24 final 

The best ppg record of any England manager at major tournaments - is Southgate undervalued?

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Jubilation filled the streets from Cornwall to Northumberland on Wednesday night. England are in the Euro 2024 final. Ollie Watkins’ last minute winner meant they beat the Netherlands 2-1 in Dortmund, and will now face Spain in Berlin on Sunday. Nevertheless, despite England making it to back-to-back European Championship finals, manager Gareth Southgate still doesn’t seem to get adequate praise for taking them there. ‘They’ve had an easy route’ some people claim. ‘With those players they should be winning the tournament easily’ say others. But in reality every game at a major tournament is difficult and having great players is no pre-requisite to winning major international trophies – just look at England’s last ‘golden generation’. 

Tournament football has never been easy, and England making it to another final should be immensely celebrated. Before they made it to the final of Euro 2020 three years ago, England hadn’t been to a major final in 55 years. Since Southgate has been manager, England have become big game players at these tournaments. And the 53 year old possesses a mightily good record at major tournaments – in fact when it comes to points per game (ppg), the very best. He’s now completely level with Sir Alf Ramsey, who won the World Cup with England in 1966, with exactly the same average ppg record at major tournaments, but Southgate has managed more games. 

Gareth Southgate’s impressive record at major tournaments with England

As you can see above, Southgate trumps all England managers records when it comes to results at major tournaments. You have to go back to Ramsey who last managed the Three Lions in 1974 to find a boss who can match his record of 2.08ppg. If England beat Spain in the final on Thursday, Southgate would actually become the outright number one, moving to 2.12ppg. Yet the England boss is still constantly vilified and often ridiculed by the media and supporters alike. It was only two weeks ago England fans were chucking cups of beer at him. There is a perception, that with England’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to attacking talent, Southgate should let the shackles off and play more attacking football, but is that really how you win major tournaments?

Portugal won Euro 2016, and only won one game in 90 minutes (a 2-0 win against Wales in the semi-final). They made it through the group with three draws and just three points. It’s not even like Southgate even has a bad record when it comes to his England side scoring goals at major tournaments. At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the Three Lions scored nine goals in the group, including a 6-1 win over Iran, and then beat Senegal 3-0 in the round of 16 – only both of the finalists in Argentina and France scored more that tournament. Also, quite incredibly, no England manage in history has led the nation in more games at major tournaments than Southgate now has with 25 matches in charge. That’s already ten more than the next manager on that list in Sir Bobby Robson. He will hit 26 on Sunday in what could be his last ever game in charge.

During the four tournaments he has managed in, England have scored 43 goals in 25 games, averaging at 1.72 goals per game – not a bad record at major tournaments. Some of the criticism is of course worthy. Most people would agree that Southgate is not an elite tactician in the bracket of Pep GuardiolaMikel Arteta and perhaps even Germany’s Julian Nagelsmann. His in game management has sometimes been questionable, but nobody could argue with his substitutes against the Netherlands, as Cole Palmer and Watkins combined to send the Three Lions to Berlin. He has truly united the group and made players want to play for England again, and a record of a semi-final, losing a final on penalties, a quarter-final where you crash out to the holders, and now another final is a superb record.

Of course, the counter to that would be England have generational talent, but that’s not a pre-requisite to international success. The Three Lions infamous ‘golden generation’ that boasted the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank LampardDavid Beckham and Wayne Rooney never even made it past a quarter-final. Many international sides oozing with world class talent have faillen short at major international tournaments, and striking the balance between attacking football and being a tight ship defensively is usually key to success. As the Euros has progressed this summer, many of the questions around Southgate’s capability of being a successful England manager have be answered. Before Southgate there was 0 European Championship finals in 60 years. With him there will now be two in just three years. The Three Lions roar on under Gareth.

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