All eyes will be on Gareth Southgate when he takes charge of England for the first time against Malta at Wembley on Saturday.
Southgate was named as caretaker manager of the Three Lions following the sudden departure of Sam Allardyce after a newspaper sting operation at the end of September, but should the former defender be given the job on a full-time basis?
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson clearly recognised and was convinced by Southgate’s leadership qualities when he appointed him as Steve McClaren’s replacement shortly after the then 35-year-old’s retirement in 2006.
He spent three years at the Riverside Stadium and, despite being unable to avoid relegation from the Premier League in 2009, was unlucky to be sacked in October 2009 with Boro fourth in the Championship and on course for an instant return to the top-flight.
The more experienced figure of Gordon Strachan (now manager of Scotland) took over on Teeside, but it was no coincidence that the club drifted away from promotion contention following Southgate’s departure and subsequently took a further six seasons to regain their Premier League status.
After nearly four years out of management and a stint as the FA’s head of elite development, the former Aston Villa centre-half took charge of the England Under-21s following the dismissal of Stuart Pearce.
The signs looked good for the Young Lions under his guidance until their group-stage exit from Euro 2015, but Southgate remained in charge before leading the Under-23 side to glory in the Toulon tournament earlier this year.
He is already one up on the majority of managers out there as a result of enjoying tournament success at international level and, with him potentially making the step up to the first-team squad, there is an opportunity to establish a theme of natural progression for the Three Lions similar to the proven success of the likes of Germany.
This has already been demonstrated by Southgate’s first England squad, deciding to include the likes Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, both players who have played under him at under-21 level, as well as calling up Burnley defender Michael Keane.
England are odds on favourite at 1/40 with Paddy Power to win against Malta on Saturday and betting has reportedly been high internationally with a keen interest in how the “new” England will perform after the recent saga. Sites a far afield as Australia have reported a high turnout in bets being placed on England to perform well in their next match. Mark Reed from Bonuscodes.com.au quoted as saying “We’ve seen a significant increase in bets being placed on England when they play Malta which shows that even abroad, the controversy around England football team has had a positive impact on the betting market”.
At 46 years old, Southgate is the right age for a period of longevity in the role providing that he is given time to deliver the goods and left to his own devices.
However, in order to do so, the nation needs to adopt reasonable expectations of the England team and accept that it is highly likely that they will not become an instant success.
Nevertheless, with the right approach and nurturing of the talent at our disposal, they could well do in the near future and why can’t Southgate be the man to do just that?