England are a dominant international soccer force … but Southgate has a growing list of potential future stars

Gareth Southgate has restored a degree of stability to English football by settling into his role as manager of England and taking a squad to Russia for next summer’s World Cup. Fusing the collective experience, style and grit that has distinguished his previous three clubs is important to the ease with which he has been able to perform a U-turn in recruitment.

Southgate is regarded among his peers as a bright and diligent researcher, who is often mesmerized by game visuals and often draws the picture of what kind of manager he would like to be.

When the Premier League began the England coach selected Manchester United’s high-profile youth product Jesse Lingard for his first two training sessions before laying out a trial. Lingard, known as a hard worker and tactical thinker, is considered a vastly improved prospect under a variety of skill sets that Southgate picked on Saturday in the confident and efficient 3-0 win over the Italy’s second-team.

“I wouldn’t say that in my early days I was a hardworking midfielder,” Lingard says. “But having a couple of good years in the Premier League has allowed me to improve my work rate, my reading of the game and added more technical attributes.”

When the Premier League began the England coach selected Manchester United’s high-profile youth product Jesse Lingard for his first two training sessions before laying out a trial.

The England coach has not long topline before the first serious World Cup preparation starts in Poland, in December, and that will entail choosing from among a more experienced group. Southgate has delighted in keeping out those with much less with uncapped names on the team sheet in order to tempt in newcomers who have been heralded as potential future stars in the British game.

And that is a strategy that has seen Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, the Manchester United midfield wonderkid Andreas Pereira and Tottenham’s 22-year-old Christian Eriksen, one of the most talented talents to emerge since the 1990s, enter the senior set-up.

Even then there are plenty of budding talents and fringe players to take advantage of. Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, a talismanic figure in the Europa League and Champions League for the country at this stage, is a very real potential player for Southgate in the future, even if the 19-year-old forward said this week that it is “important to pick the best players to help England win the World Cup” at the top level.

Despite the subdued performance in the friendly against Germany last Wednesday, England continue to be an elite-class national team that nobody can read bookies odds of 4-1 for, a spread much better than the long-standing odds of 11-8 for Southgate winning this month’s European Championship.

It has been less than two years since England had a prolonged run of matches under Roy Hodgson that yielded a total of seven wins and five draws. Since the former manager was sacked after Euro 2016, England have won all eight matches in all competitions.

While it does not look like much in an ambition driven by technical and tactical integrity, some at the national team are looking for a semblance of pace. They want flair and flair fostered, not coached. It is a respect Southgate has already worked to create in players in his time with England.

“I think they try to help players to find where their natural position is, find their best position and what they have in themselves that they can bring to the table,” Southgate says. “Once we’ve identified that then we are clear that that is our preferred style of play. I think our preference is to attack and we want to win. We believe that our style of play fits.”

The move to revitalize international football should see that approach intensifying in Russia and as Southgate goes forward. So far though it seems to be working just about everywhere.

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