Gareth Southgate has targeted winning trophies as he bids to take England to the next level.
Southgate has made huge strides since taking charge of the Three Lions in 2016 and has led his exciting young team to two semi-finals, including the last four of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But England have continued to come up short when it matters most to leave a frustrated Southgate knowing he remains one of the nearly men of international management.
The Three Lions return to action for the first time in almost 12 months tonight when they take on Iceland in Reykjavik in the group stages of the Nations League.
Both Southgate and his stars are relishing the chance to continue their progress towards what they hope will be Euro glory next summer – and England’s first win at a major tournament since 1966.
He said: “One of the biggest signposts is the way the guys have been desperate to be here this week and their enjoyment, their excitement of pulling on the shirt in training, their enjoyment and excitement in coming back together as a group.
“There’s a different level of confidence, which needed rebuilding because we’d had disappointing World Cups where we’d gone out in the group stage, then in the Euros, then two quick changes of manager so everything needed to stabilise a bit.
“I think we always have to measure what our internal targets are and how bold we go publicly, and there is a balance there of not heaping pressure on the team, but accepting there is expectation on the team.
“We have had a good run of two or three years now – and to just get where we did before won’t be received with as many accolades as we’ve had in the past.
“The team has to acknowledge that, but they are hungry for that. That is why Raheem (Sterling) and Harry (Kane) being here signals that intent – and signals the desire to take every opportunity they can to play for England, but also to win things with England.”
Southgate has called up the likes of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood for the first time as he continues to build a side capable of conquering Europe.
He admits Manchester City ace Foden has the talent to become the complete footballer and he said: “We have known for a long time the ability he has. You knew the quality, but I think we wanted to be a bit patient.
“We are conscious that he’s a hugely exciting talent and we didn’t want to expose that too early. But now we felt at the end of the season and post lockdown he had a really good run of games.
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“I think it’s time to give him his head and we see him being with us moving forward. And nothing I have seen this week would suggest in any way that that’s not going to be the case. We need to be able to give him the freedom to come off the line, get between the lines, play, follow, with the passes that he can. He’s a beautiful player to watch.”
A packed football calendar following the impact of Covid-19 has left Southgate fearing his stars will face burn out and he added:
“It’s going to be challenging for every manager in world football. We are all aware of those constraints and we are all aware that generally speaking the best players are the ones with the heaviest loads.
“Across the season that is going to need some managing. That needs everybody to collaborate and come together. Everyone knows the challenge.”