For years it’s been labelled ‘the impossible job’ and Gareth Southgate is beginning to realise why.
Since taking charge of the England national team Southgate has led somewhat of a charmed life. First of all the men he succeeded – Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce – hardly set the bar particularly high, with the former crashing out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, and the latter being relieved of his post after being filmed taking a payment in exchange for advice on how to ‘get around ‘ rules on player transfers.
Secondly, the former Middlesbrough boss was afforded a favourable draw at the 2018 World Cup as the Three Lions reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1996, and with a plethora of quality youngsters beginning to flourish in Europe’s top leagues, Southgate was probably beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about.
However, with the path ahead looking unnervingly smooth, certain members of the Three Lions squad are doing their best to sabotage any feeling of optimism surrounding the national side, with two separate off-field incidents in a month leading to disciplinary action.
With ill-discipline seemingly becoming a growing issue within the camp, Southgate needs to take action – yet this doesn’t mean he needs to start ruling with an iron fist. The regular inclusion of some level-headed, reliable, authoritative figures can help to guide England’s youngsters, and top of the list should be Conor Coady.
Since being named club captain in 2017 by Nuno Espirito Santo, Coady’s influence on Wolves’ squad has only grown. Playing in the centre of a back three – a formation Southgate is clearly eager to explore with England – the 27-year-old has proven himself to have all the organisational and communication skills needed to become a quality leader.
As Wolves’ squad has developed in recent years more and more top-class players have arrived at the club. Coady now shares a dressing room with a whole host of seasoned internationals and former Barcelona men, while players like talisman Raúl Jiménez have been sought after by some of the biggest clubs in world football.
However, among an abundance of stellar names, the former Huddersfield man clearly has the ability to maintain the respect of the dressing room, a facet of his personality which could be invaluable in an England squad full of quality individuals.
While the Wolves captain’s attitude, temperament and personality has never been in question, his footballing ability often goes under the radar. As the centre of a back three at club level, the former Liverpool man regularly receives the ball under pressure and is entrusted to play into midfield to João Moutinho and Rúben Neves.
There’s perhaps a bit of a preconception that he’s a regular in Nuno’s side purely because of his captaincy, but in fact he’s a very underrated footballer, and he fits in perfectly with Southgate’s desired style of play.
The only possible question which could be raised of Coady’s regular inclusion would be his ability to step up to the international stage having made the majority of his 340 career appearances so far in the lower leagues.
The Wolves captain was handed his England debut in the 0-0 draw with Denmark in September and went onto produce a Man of the Match display, with his second appearance against Wales a month later seeing him put in another solid performance as he opened his goalscoring account.
The displays quashed any suggestions that he may not have the ability to play international football, and if Southgate wants to avoid further disciplinary problems within his youthful squad, the inclusion of leaders like the Coady will be key.