SOME of the flak being aimed at England manager Gareth Southgate has been unfair.
After two shocking defeats to Hungary, some of it has also been fair.
But, whichever side of the Southgate fence you sit on, one fact is undeniable — the national team is in far better shape than it was six years ago when he took over.
Rewind to 2016 and we had the shambles of a defeat to the might of Iceland, followed by the brief Sam Allardyce reign.
Let’s face it, we were really the laughing stock of Europe.
Southgate has transformed the fortunes of the Three Lions and, OK, we haven’t managed to win anything tangible — unlike the Lionesses — but at least we have been contenders, if not champions.
A World Cup semi-final, followed by a first appearance in a major final since the heady days of 1966, means progress has been made.
Southgate doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend him, he is big enough to do that himself but some of the recent sniping has been below the belt.
This England team may not be feared, but at least it is respected, and a lot of the credit for that must go to the manager.
Football fans could say Southgate has been lucky in that a stack of talented youngsters are coming through on his watch, yet do you remember the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard?
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Yes, I do too. And what exactly did we do back then? To borrow a phrase belonging to Norman Stanley Fletcher in Porridge, ‘Naff all Godber, naff all’.
Jack Grealish has defended Southgate’s record — and who can blame him?
But I don’t agree with Grealish’s “this is what you get if you’re English” comment.
I think if any national side of reasonable stature lost 4-0 at home to Hungary then there would be some stick.
Southgate is a well-balanced human being and he will know that the only guide to managerial success or failure is results.
His results have been excellent, until recently. That doesn’t make him a bad manager, as his team has lost only 12 games out of 74.
The players can use Southgate’s mangling as a motivator.
Thumped in the Molineux mauling by the Magyars, they now have the perfect stage to come out fighting for their country and their manager.
Only Harry Kane seems certain of his starting place when we kick off our World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21 — and the striker’s 50 goals in 73 international appearances suggests Southgate is right to ink his name in.
As for the rest, places are up for grabs and surely that must create real competition?
If we crash out early in Qatar, you can be sure Southgate’s contract until the end of 2024 won’t be worth much. But it is only right we wait to see how he does.
We were a penalty shootout away from being crowned kings of Europe, so instead of the flak, give Southgate some slack. He earned that much at least.
IT was a special moment on Thursday as we welcomed Mark Noble back to West Ham as our new sporting director.
A true legend of the East End, Mark has always been and will always be part of the fabric at West Ham, having made 550 senior appearances across 18 incredible years of devoted service.
Mark will start his important role in January — a new position which will see him work closely in support of manager David Moyes, as well as the board, providing input, advice and help across the football operation.
In addition to the role he will play with the men’s and women’s teams, we’re delighted that his new position will see him continue his close affinity with the academy.
Respected throughout the game, he is undoubtedly one of the crown jewels of our academy, a one-club man who gave his all for the shirt every time he stepped out on to the pitch.
He will now work tirelessly to ensure the pipeline that has made West Ham renowned throughout the world continues and that we attract, develop and retain great players.
And importantly, help us build great characters who understand what West Ham stand for.
Anyone who saw Mark take a penalty knows he relishes responsibility and is never flustered under pressure.
I know from my own dealings with Mark — particularly when we were going through the hugely challenging Covid-19 pandemic — he possesses all the skills, attributes and the right character, to be a huge success.
Fans know Mark as the man who ran through brick walls for West Ham United and always put the club first.
What many won’t know about Mark is his business acumen — he’s sharp, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and knows his own mind.
He also has that rare knack of being able to speak to anyone from royalty to the man on the street.
We have huge ambition — on and off the pitch — and Mark will play a key role in helping us achieve great things.
No one knows our philosophy and the things that make our great club truly special more than him.
Mark once said West Ham is not just a football club, it’s a family.
We are proud as punch that one of the club’s favourite sons is returning in such an important position.