Southgate: DNA development has already started

Friday 05 Dec 2014
Southgate and Matt Crocker discuss England DNA at St. George's Park

Gareth Southgate believes the ‘England DNA’ is already bearing fruit, after his Under-21s side demonstrated some of the key qualities during their successful European Qualifying campaign.

Southgate was joined by FA director of elite development Dan Ashworth and head of player and coach development Matt Crocker at St. George’s Park for the launch of the evolving philosophy for England youth teams.

The England DNA is aimed at producing better players through the age-ranges who can one day bring success to the Three Lions at senior level for both men and women.

Gareth Southgate celebrates with goalkeeping coach Martin Thomas

Southgate's Under-21s secured qualification for the Euros in October

And the Under-21s head coach was keen to point out that this isn’t something they must wait on to see improvements.

"We don’t want to stand here and say: ‘this a plan and it’s going to take five years to see anything happen’," Southgate told 

"We feel that already the Under-21s are playing in the style that we’d like to see. So possession-based game, intelligent players, decision-makers, making sure we give the players some ownership of the game and not just make all the decisions for them. 

"There are elements that are there that people can see now."

One of the core elements of the DNA looks at playing style, with coaching and development of players aimed at creating England teams who dominate games with possession.

However, Southgate admits that work must also focus on how the teams play when they don’t have the ball.

And he insists that planning and preparation in training and games can allow them to work on how they deal with certain scenarios, such as being a goal down late in the game.

"We talk as much about what we do with the ball as when we haven’t got the ball," he said. 

"In an even game you haven’t got the ball for 50 per cent of the time, so you have to be clearer on defensive requirements as an individual and as a team. 

"If there is an understanding from the players in terms of the qualities we want from their defending, then it becomes a lot clearer."

He added: "Within our preparations for matches we’d certainly talk about what happens if we are behind with five minutes to go. 

"We’ve stuck to our principles - we scored a late goal in Lithuania because we stuck to our way of playing and wore down the opposition."

Southgate also highlighted the development of a new match programme and a creation of regular fixtures at U15s, U18s and U20s, filling a void that previously denied playing opportunities.

England U17s lift the European U17 Championship title in Malta

England U17s became Euro champions in May 2014

This year England U17s and U20s have taken on the likes of Brazil, USA and South Korea, and these meetings with teams outside of Europe will become more regular in the future. 

And he hopes that these experiences will help develop a recognisable playing style, allied to the traditional qualities of determination and commitment often associated with England teams. 

"Our U17s won the European Championship last season and one or two of those players we’ve fast-tracked into the U19s, but previously we didn’t have an U18s team," said the former England defender. 

"We felt, having a programme of around ten games for them, they will be a group of players we can keep contact with, that get experience of international football for a year. 

"Once we have put the team in, we have to make sure the games are challenging. 

England Under-21s head coach Gareth Southgate at the England DNA launch.

Southgate has played a big role in the development of England DNA

"That is evolving, but we are trying to look at more matches against teams from other continents and maybe more tournaments being away from home that prepares them for the seniors."

Southgate continued: "We’d like to be in a position where we are playing with a style that people can associate with an England team – which is maybe different to perceptions of England teams in the past. 

"But we retain the qualities the rest of the world do respect us for. So we should keep the qualities of our spirit and never-say-die attitude, but we have to add technical ability to that, tactical awareness and game-intelligence. 

"If we can do that then we should be challenging in the semi-finals and finals at tournaments at every age-groups. 

"If they can win playing in that style and with those skills, it will give them great confidence as they go into the senior team in the future."

England U21s boss Gareth Southgate and director of elite development Dan Ashworth discuss the new England DNA


By Jamie Bradbury FA Editor