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It’s a new era in English football, says coach Southgate


England’s experience at the World Cup in Russia will not only set the standard for future generations but this will also be the beginning of a new era of English football, said coach Gareth Soutgate.

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England play their first World Cup Semi-final since 1990 on Wednesday and may what the outcome be, Southgate is confident that the sensational run of this team will surely be “a great reference point” for English teams of the future.

“The experiences of the last few weeks, the milestones this team has hit, will be a great reference point moving forward. The more big games we are involved in, the more pressure situations they’re involved in and emerge from successful, the more belief it will build,” said Southgate at the pre-match conference on Tuesday night.

Southgate’s team of 23 has been revolutionary in the sense, that unlike the gold superstars of the past, this team is tied on a bond of brotherhood and the spectacle which they have presented in Russia will make it easier for the next generation to follow them.

These boys are writing their own history, unperturbed by the cruel and sadistic past that their predecessors have left behind. Many ‘barriers’ have been uprooted and several pieces of history are re-written, but Southgate does not want this team to stop. He wants them to keep pushing, no matter where it ends.

We are enjoying the journey,” he said. “We’ve been one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced, but we were never quite sure how far this team could go. The improvement and the hunger in the players is very clear for everyone to see. We’ve made several pieces of history: Biggest win in the tournament, first knockout win for 10 years, first quarter-final win for longer. We keep looking to break the barriers down. It’s been an enjoyable journey, and we want to keep it going.”

This victory however has not been of the players alone, it has been a triumph for their manager as well. From working as coach of the U-21 team to heading the youth development department, Southgate could not have perceived of coaching the senior English team ever.

Yet, here he is fixing every nail in the coffin – the coffin that will bury the past – he is adjoining every English hopes again, preparing his players as they aim their fast shot at glory since 1966.

England’s success is however not as dramatic and sudden as it seems to be. They won the Under-17 World Cup, European Under-19 Championship and Under-20 World Cup in a historic 2017 summer. Players of those squad have been the beneficiary of the changes made in the English junior and academy football in recent years.

When those players start moving towards the Under-21s and senior international sides in the future, they will only strengthen the senior team and carry on the winning mentality.

“We have a core group of young players in this squad we believe will take us forward,” he said. “And others coming through the age group teams with good experiences, who have belief they can win, but also expectations that we should be in quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals more regularly. That’s what we wanted to do with our younger teams.

“All of that work is great, but you really have to achieve at senior level in the end for that to be fulfilled. We have a great opportunity now to get to the final,” added Southgate.

England face Croatia in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

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