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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
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‘He plays it safe and didn’t want to go for it’ – John Aldridge on how Gareth Southgate’s caution cost England

Gareth Southgate applauds fans after England's defeat to France. Photo: Getty Images

England manager Gareth Southgate fluffed his lines when it mattered most and that is why his side will be watching Sunday’s World Cup final from their sofas.

That’s the verdict of former Liverpool and Ireland striker John Aldridge, who believes the England boss failed to press home England’s advantage in their quarter-final defeat against France.

Yet Sunday World columnist Aldridge believes the England boss showed a lack of killer instinct when his side had their opponents on the ropes.

"England were better than France in many areas of that game, but their manager didn’t take the initiative when he should have done,” Aldridge told us.

"When England got back to 1-1, France were there for the taking. England were giving them real problems and it felt like they were the team most likely to win.

"That’s when Southgate showed his true colours and refused to go on the offensive.

"You look at that England substitutes bench and it was loaded with players who can change a game – Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.

"Any of those could have come on and push to get the second England goal, but Southgate played it safe and only made changes when France went 2-1 ahead.

"At that point, England were chasing the game again and Southgate had missed his moment."

Aldridge believes England will continue to fall short if Southgate remains in charge, with a decision over his future expected in January.

"The top managers take hold of a situation and try to win a game, but Southgate is not that kind of manager,” added Aldo.

"He plays it safe, tries to grind out a result and didn’t want to go for it against France.

"England’s defence was a concern at this World Cup and Southgate was worried about getting hit on the break.

"In the end, doing nothing cost them and the manager has to take a large share of the blame for that.”

Southgate will take time to consider his future as the England manager deals with conflicting thoughts after what he admits has been an often difficult last 18 months in the hot seat.

England’s wait to emulate Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 heroes goes on as attention turns to Southgate as he processes the last-eight loss on the back of last summer’s European Championship final loss to Italy.

The 52-year-old has a contract until the next Euros in 2024 but wants to ensure he has the energy required to go again and that the decision is right for the team.

“When I’ve been through the past few tournaments my emotions have been difficult to really think through properly in those following few weeks,” Southgate said.

“It took so much energy out of you and you have so much going through your mind.

“I want to make the right decision either way because it has to be the right one to go again, or the right one not to go again and I don’t think this is the time to make a decision like that.”

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