Gareth Southgate considered stepping down as England boss because of criticism he faced before the World Cup, saying: “The last thing you want as a manager is that your presence is divisive and inhibits performance.”
England were knocked out of the tournament by France in the quarter-finals, 18 months after losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties at Wembley.
The team were booed off in June following a 4-0 defeat against Hungary at Molineux in the Nations League – part of a generally poor series of results leading into the winter World Cup.
Explaining for the first time how he reached the decision to stay in his job, he told BBC Sport: “I never want to be in a position where my presence is affecting the team in a negative way.
“I didn’t believe that was the case, but I just wanted a period after the World Cup to reflect and make sure that was still how it felt.”
The 52-year-old said he asked himself: “Is it the right thing to keep taking this project on? I wanted to make sure I’m still fresh and hungry for that challenge.”
Describing his role as “the greatest privilege of my life”, he said the decision to stay was ultimately “not difficult” because of “the quality of performances and the progress that we’re making”.
“The team are still improving. We’re all gaining belief in what we’re doing,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted at the team’s training base St George’s Park, Southgate:
- strongly suggested he considered announcing last year that Qatar would be his final tournament to “free that narrative up so the support is behind the team, and not debating whether the manager should be there or not”
- said getting knocked out in the quarter-final was “really difficult to take” but the support from players and fans “definitely lifts you”
- revealed he was “comfortable” with his tactics during the defeat to France and had no regrets
- insisted England are “really competitive against everybody now” and is “very confident” about their chances at next year’s European Championship in Germany