So, what is the secret of Gareth Southgate’s great eye for detail? Special shampoo for your feet! His former Crystal Palace mentor Alan Smith reveals how the England manager became a national treasure
- England are one match away from a first-ever European Championship triumph
- Gareth Southgate would be the country’s first victorious boss since Alf Ramsey
- Southgate captained Crystal Palace aged 22 and led them to the Premier League
- Alan Smith says Southgate’s turbulent career has made him the man he is now
- His steel can be seen when he dropped players like Jack Grealish and Phil Foden
- If England win though, Smith accepts the scrutiny on Southgate will go up
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Loyalty counts in Gareth Southgate’s world so it should not be a surprise he has invited his first manager, Alan Smith, to Wembley for this evening’s defining Euro 2020 final against Italy.
Smith was Southgate’s youth-team boss and mentor at Crystal Palace and the pair have remained close over five decades.
Last week, Smith posted a picture of the 1989 Palace youngsters about to embark on a training camp in Portugal.
Alan Smith believes that Gareth Southgate’s experience at Crystal Palace toughened him up
The 50-year-old is one game away from winning England’s first piece of silverware for 55 years
There are plenty of notables, including future England international Chris Powell, now part of Southgate’s backroom team, and goalscoring goalkeeper Jimmy Glass.
But none went on to have the career of Southgate, who won 57 England caps as a player — missing a key penalty at Euro 96 — and is now a national treasure by leading a young and vibrant Three Lions to within 90 minutes of ending 55 years of hurt.
‘It was a nice group of players and Gareth, then 18, epitomised what we were about in that photo. He is looking straight at the camera, smart blazer and a big smile,’ reflects Smith on Southgate’s first overseas trip as a professional.
‘Teams didn’t do glamorous pre-seasons back then, but I had a mate who got us a deal for 10 days in Vale do Lobo and another mate who sponsored the trip.
‘The chairman Ron Noades was furious because the first team had nothing like that. They didn’t have the budget.
‘Before we went to Portugal, we spent a week with the Grenadier and Coldstream guards, assault courses every day.
‘It was bloody tough and the players hated it. But they knew if they got through it, they would be off to Portugal. Otherwise, they wouldn’t go. Not surprisingly, nobody got injured!’
Smith believes the early days helped shape not only Southgate but other players who also went on to enjoy successes of their own.
Simon Rodger, Dean Gordon, Simon Osborn, Ricky Newman and the best man at Southgate’s wedding, Andy Woodman, all made it in the professional game.
Southgate’s attention to detail at Palace even saw him use another shampoo for his feet
Jamie Moralee went on to become a striker at Millwall and after retirement became the boss of New Era, the management company who guided Rio Ferdinand.
From that summer, Southgate went to Portugal every pre-season with Palace. By 1993, Smith was first-team manager and Southgate his 22-year-old captain in a team that boasted many senior pros and alpha males, including Andy Thorn, Chris Coleman and Ray Wilkins.
Smith arranged for Southgate to room with Wilkins, who had enjoyed a stellar playing career and was regarded as a good role model.
‘Ray was meticulous in his preparation,’ explains Smith. ‘The detail was brilliant, even down to using a different kind of shampoo for his feet.
‘We had a lot of players who would have made captains. Some players felt we needed a more experienced leader but nobody could set the standards that Gareth did and we ended up winning promotion to the Premier League.
‘Ray Lewington (later to be Roy Hodgson’s No2 with England) was reserve coach. The other coach was David Kemp, who had that nice ability to point things out without undermining me. I am sure all those things were sewn into Gareth’s psyche at an early age.’
Back row (left to right): Scott Thomas, Ricky Newman, Dave Stevens, Mark Hone, Ben Harding, Dean Gordon, Stuart Corlett. Middle row (left to right): John Whitfield (coach), Simon Rodger, Paul Brazier, Jimmy Glass, Andy Woodman, Barry Ellis, Chris Powell, Carl Roberts, Stuart Scott (assistant manager). Front row (left to right): Johnny Myatt, Simon Osborn, Gareth Southgate, Alan Smith (manager), Jamie Moralee, Simon Lines, Mark Pepper.
Sir Alf Ramsey is the only England coach to have won a major international tournament
Fast forward 30 years and Southgate has had to cope with monumental pressure to take England to their first final since Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966.
The Euros started with everyone having an opinion on who the manager should pick, whether players should take the knee and even if it was preferable to lose their last group game to avoid a knockout game against Germany.
Somehow, Southgate was able to shut out the noise. Not only did England beat the Germans, they did so without Jack Grealish, Phil Foden or Mason Mount — players that fans and pundits were screaming out for.
‘Gareth has gone through things in his career that have made him a much tougher person,’ said Smith.
‘Bricks have been put into place along the way. Rejection as a schoolboy by Southampton, relegated at Palace, missing the penalty at Euro 96, a devastating sacking at Middlesbrough, missing the chance to play for one of the big clubs.
‘To say he has a cold streak is the wrong description because he’s a very giving person, but the sports psychologist Michael Caulfield got it right when he says Gareth has steel.
Southgate’s steel has been underlined by his benching of both Jack Grealish and Phil Foden
‘Some people think, ‘Good old Gareth, he will go along with us’, but I’ve never seen him in that light. I know from managing him, if he didn’t agree with something, you couldn’t force him.’
Already hugely popular after leading England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, victory against Italy would turn Southgate into an icon.
There will be calls for him to be knighted, job interest from the biggest clubs in the world and every cause seeking his endorsement.
Smith acknowledges things will not be quite the same, no matter how much Southgate yearns for it.
‘He’s always led what I consider a normal life,’ says Smith. ‘He has an interest in outside things.
‘He is comfortable in a pub, it doesn’t have to be a trendy wine bar. He enjoys watching cricket at Yorkshire or Surrey.
Smith acknowledges that the scrutiny of Southgate will increase significantly if England win
‘But life is going to change and he’ll have to be more selective in what he does. Whether he’ll enjoy that, I don’t know.
‘Some of the intrusion isn’t nice. Even the biggest club managers don’t have the same spotlight when a national team capture the imagination of a whole nation.
‘I think the solace of his family is really precious to him because only he knows the true demands of the job.
‘But he has continued to bring class and style to the job. What he says and how he says it, it’s not written by the PR department.’
Smith hopes the gentlemanly aspect will rub off on fans today. ‘Sunday is going to be a very good day, whatever happens for English football,’ he says.
‘People abroad can see the talent we’ve brought through, and credit also has to go to Howard Wilkinson for setting up the academy system in the 1990s.
‘This England staff and squad all come across as decent blokes who have conducted themselves impeccably.
Smith has called on England fans to ‘have a bit of class’ and not boo Italy’s national anthem
‘I’d like it to be replicated by the fans not booing the Italian national anthem. Let’s have a bit of class. It doesn’t do any favours to disrespect another country.’
As he sits with the Southgate family tonight, Smith’s mind will drift back to that first trip to Portugal when his two part-time coaches, John Whitfield and Stuart Scott, took time off from their post office jobs to put Southgate and his team-mates through their paces.
‘We got a letter from British Airways to say how impressed they’d been with our players and how well they represented Crystal Palace,’ says Smith.
‘People ask me how proud I am of Gareth with England doing well. I am of course, but I was proud of him that day we went to Portugal. I was proud of him when we won the second division title. I don’t see him any different today.
‘When I look at that picture, I also see Chris Powell, who got released by Palace and went to Southend and then Derby to rebuild his career.
‘He and Gareth went separate ways but now they are together again, set on helping England win the Euros. These connections are what makes football magical.’
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