Southgate: How England can play without fear
Written by Simon Austin — June 11, 2017
ENGLAND boss Gareth Southgate has outlined how he plans to get his team playing without inhibition.
It might sound simple, but Southgate says the fear of failure has hampered England in many major games.
“It is very easy for a coach to talk about playing with freedom, but it is much harder for a player to step across the white line and do it,” the 46-year-old told the FA’s Boot Room magazine.
“I don't think there is a player, an artist, or an actor who doesn't have a little bit of doubt in their mind, so as the coach you have to constantly provide reassurance.
“If you are asking a player to play with freedom and things go wrong, you can’t criticise them for doing the things you asked them to.
“What we say is important, but our actions speak loudly at times: communication and body language on the side of the pitch is so important.
“Players look for clues - they’re working out if you genuinely believe what you say and whether you will stick to the message when under pressure at critical moments. I know as a player that at times I was a bit inhibited in the way I played – I didn't play with that absolute freedom.
“There were moments in my career where I did and I know which of the two I preferred the most and which of the two mindsets got the best out of me and the teams I played in. So I want to create that environment for players.”
Southgate, who took over as England boss in November 2016, played for his country at three major tournaments and captained Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. But he says it's his failures, as both a player and manager, that will liberate him now.
“I have been involved in successful teams and I have been involved in plenty of things that have gone wrong,” he said.
“So I think I have a good understanding of what the end needs to look like for top players. I know what is required of teams in order for them to win - the level of detail, the level of professionalism and the mentality.
“I have learned from things that have gone wrong and had to pick myself up, from being a very young player, right through to being a senior player and a coach.
“Because of those failures I feel it gives you the freedom of being able to say ‘how might we be the best possible team’ and not be afraid of what goes wrong. Because whatever goes wrong we can deal with, as I have lived through it.
“I think that gives me freedom to allow the players to express themselves and to challenge them to be the best they might be. There are lots of barriers for players which inhibit their performance - most of them psychological - so you have to try and make them overcome that and try and limit the interference in their performance.
“A lot of that will stem from doing the basics well: making sure they are well prepared, understand their role and are clear about what is expected of them. It is a great challenge for every coach to have that high level of communication with a squad and to really feel how everybody is.
“You have to have to understand that for any player, during any season, they are going to go through things in their lives and through their playing experiences which will affect how they might be thinking.
“So, the closer we are to understanding that and understanding our players the more able we are to help them.”