The next steps
Southgate is refusing to rest on his laurels after leading his country to just their third-ever World Cup semi-final.
He doesn’t want his team, or the supporters, to dwell too much on their achievements in Russia and he is already looking to the future.
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He said: “It’s about developing as a team. Over the summer you’re looking for results but now it’s about improving as a team, developing the way we play, improving the tactical detail of how we play and testing ourselves over the next few months against some really top teams.
“It’s about the next step and the next challenges. Sport doesn’t stand still for anybody.”
Change is in the air
Southgate praised his World Cup squad for reaching the last four in Russia – but he said he doesn’t want the Spain game to turn into a homecoming for the 23 squad members.
He explained: “Of course, the basis of the team will be the team [from Russia].
“We had good performances and we’re looking to continue that. The summer was brilliant, it’s great that we’ve got a full house and it’s great that everybody will feel the appreciation.
“But you’ve got to continually evolve and increase that competition [for places].
“The players are of the same mentality. They’re all of an age where what’s next is the most important thing.”
Kane is able
Harry Kane won the Golden Boot over the summer, the first Englishman to do so since Gary Lineker in 1986 – and Southgate had nothing but praise for his skipper.
“Other international managers would love to be in the position I’m in to be able to pick him [Kane]. I’ve sat with a few at matches over the last couple of years and they’ve told me exactly that.
“The great thing is that Harry is 24 so to have reached the level he has already, and with time on his side, is really exciting.”
Spain were rocked on the eve of the World Cup when manager Julen Lopetegui was appointed as the new Real Madrid boss. They regrouped under Fernando Hierro but were knocked out of Russia 2018 by the host nation.
However, Southgate is fully aware of threat they will pose under the arch with new manager Luis Enrique at the helm for the first time.
He said: “We know the quality of their players and the depth of quality they have. With the disappointment for them over the last couple of tournaments, and the retirements of some legends of the game, there will be a hunger about the team.
“The manager will want to start to implement his own ideas. The basis of how they play will be similar but there will be differences that Luis Enrique will want to impose and slight changes to the style I’m sure. That will take some time but they have some wonderful footballers and it’s a really good test for us. I’m looking forward to it.”
Southgate, you’re the one
The whole nation fell back in love with the England team during Russia 2018. The Three Lions’ run to the semis prompted scenes of celebration not seen since Euro 96.
Southgate said: “It’s brilliant that there is this excitement about international football again.
“One of our ambitions over the last year or so has been that connection with the supporters.
“The impact the summer had, for the way England were viewed as a team, was really pleasing because it’s a much better environment for the players to go and play if they feel that warmth and that goodwill.
“That’s great credit to this group of players and what they’ve done.”