Like Gareth South Gate He watched England play against Germany in the September Nations League game, stood on the touchline at Wembley and thought seriously about the end of his reign. England have not won any of their last five games and 2-0 behind 20 minutes before. The atmosphere in the stadium was now oscillating between boredom and rebellion, which a manager interpreted as undesirable.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Southgate has 30 minutes to make up his mind; Once the inevitable wrath of this defeat subsided, he would announce it would be Qatar’s last tournament.

“I never wanted to be a divisive figure doing the work that impacted the team,” he said. “Before the World Cup, I was worried whether I should say I’m leaving at the end of the tournament to give the players a chance to play, to relieve them of the pressure.”

Instead, the players unleashed their manager with a three-goal comeback that spurred Wembley into action and pierced the gathering clouds. Southgate reconsidered his future after losing to France in the World Cup quarterfinals, but it only took eight days for him to decide to stay – he had the support of the FA and the support of the players, and most importantly, he still felt he could do it. win something though his contract is up euro 2024and therefore almost certainly the last inclination to secure a reward.

Perhaps this latest sense of escapism explains why he’s running his media duties a little cooler than usual at St George’s Park on Thursday. Southgate has come to reveal their 25-man roster for the upcoming European qualifiers. Independent described it as a pair of Nike Dunk Low Retro sneakers (£99) and a quarter-zip sweatshirt (presumably cashmere), and it looks like a guy who just sold his web design company and someone who knows how to kickflip.

At the very least, there were investigative questions about the choices of Brentford’s Ivan Toney, pending a verdict for violating FA gambling rules, and Kyle Walker, who is being investigated by police for allegedly exposing himself at a nightclub, but the defense denies this. Southgate insisted that there was no definite reason not to choose them.

“The truth is, he plays for his club because he’s available,” Southgate said of Toney. “There hasn’t been a trial or any trial, so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t choose him.”

About Walker, he added: “This is a complex situation, I spoke to him at length… I have to be very careful about making moral judgments about things. We feel like we want him by our side, we think it’s the right thing to do. When you’re a British international, there’s an even higher bar on how to handle yourself. We probably don’t make these decisions.

Ivan Toney returns to England squad after missing World Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

(PA Wire)

This may seem to contradict the typical approach to player behavior that Southgate has taken a firm stand in the past – after inviting the women to their hotel rooms in Iceland, he memorably sent Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood home, and they were not selected for the next set of fixtures. He was strong on issues related to the violation of Covid guidelines during the lockdown.

But then this new-inspired Southgate; skater-man Southgate; Call me Gareth, Southgate. He’s been in the business for nearly seven years and has already been here at the start of his three-time elimination campaign. His loyalty remains with the players above all, and if he has sometimes been faithful to a fault in his past choices, this is yet another example of his unwavering trust in those who have served him best in the past.

Alongside the mainstays like Walker were Harry Maguire, Eric Dier and Kalvin Phillips, who has yet to play in the league this season. Toney and Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi were the most interesting picks, but the rest were in line with Southgate’s long-term thinking. Trent Alexander-Arnold remains far below right-back, emphasizing that one of the Southgate favourites, Raheem Sterling, would “definitely” be picked had he been in form for Chelsea despite his mixed form.

As the qualifying starts without any warm-up matches, a tough trip to Naples awaits next week to face European champions Italy before Ukraine’s visit to Wembley. “We basically have a few days on the training ground to prepare for the humming game in Naples. We have to make sure we’re ready for that. There will be players, we know we’re a bunch of staff and it’s a good test for us right now, these are the kind of games we have to go and show we can win. For us as a team This is the next step.”

Not that Southgate needs any friends. Now he knows his staff well and he knows the job too. Almost certainly for the last time, he’s on the long road to victory. And maybe looking into the abyss and getting out the other side at Wembley last September made him more relaxed and confident than ever before.

Full England roster

goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle) ) United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United).

Striker: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford).