As the country applauds England’s gutsy win against Colombia, it’s time to pay tribute to our quietly heroic leader
If one moment, of all the moments, in England’s euphoric penalty shoot-out win against Colombia stood out, it was the footage of Gareth Southgate when Eric Dier’s winning spot-kick went in. You could visibly see what it meant to him: the pure joy of leading his team to victory in a manner that the nation had convinced themselves was simply beyond them. England? Win a penalty shoot-out? Hasn’t happened in 22 years, we just can’t do it.
At the same time, just like when Stuart Pearce banged in that penalty against Spain in Euro ‘96 - the last successful shoot-out for England - you could see a huge weight being lifted from his shoulders as he embraced his colleagues: finally, atonement - not that it was needed - for his own penalty miss 22 years before.
Of course, after his initial celebration, what was the next thing on his list? To console the Colombian who had missed, knowing all too well what it was like to be in that very same position.
Absolute touch of class from #GarethSouthgate last night by going straight to the boy who missed the penalty and console him! After all, he knows how it feels. Would have been so easy to mock after their spoiling the game #ThreeLions #Eng #England #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/7A5r5kMjF3— Jamie Ball (@jamieball1833) July 4, 2018
Initially only gaining the job as the last man standing following Sam Allardyce’s early departure, Southgate was viewed as the easy, safe, establishment choice - and one that would surely never lead England to anything. But slowly, quietly, he put together a new team to play the way he wanted and has stuck with his vision, winning nothing but plaudits for the way he has conducted himself throughout.
He’s a nice guy. And this viral tweet, back on 18 June, summed up the way the nation was suddenly starting to warm to him:
Warming to Gareth Southgate. He’s like a neighbour who’s moved in recently and seemed a bit dull at first. Cuts his grass with scissors. Then one day, he offers you a can over the fence. A quick chat about the darts. He’s alright, our Gareth. Good lad.— Darb (@Darb1983) June 18, 2018
Now, with England in the quarter-finals, Southgate-mania has now reached fever pitch, with reports of rocketing waistcoat sales (not even joking).
And so, as the man to prove that sometimes you can be a nice guy and win, the hashtag #garethsouthgatewould is trending on Twitter, detailing the everyday heroism that Gareth seems capable of.
Sure, they’re just meant to be funny, but can you honestly say that you don’t think Gareth wouldn’t do every single one of these things?
In the chaos of 2018, Gareth Southgate is the hero we need right now.