Gareth Southgate wants his team to build more of a bond with Three Lions fans in 2020

Monday 06 Jan 2020
Gareth Southgate is hoping for an exciting 2020 for both fans and his team
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Gareth Southgate is hoping 2020 will be another year to bring his England team and the fans closer together.

With qualification for UEFA EURO 2020 secured and the prospect of playing part of a major tournament on home soil, the Three Lions boss is excited at what the next few months have in store for both players and supporters alike.

After reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and then last summer’s UEFA Nations League Finals in Portugal, Southgate has seen his team and the fans forge a strong bond over the last 18 months.

And that’s something both Southgate and his players and staff want to build on in 2020.

“It's one of the great things about playing for England, you travel around the world and you see a huge volume of fans with such great vocal support,” he said.

“I think we’re unique in terms of the numbers that we take and the support, given that results haven't always mirrored the level of the following really.

“There were a couple of moments for me this year, that really resonate in that regard; one was Portugal and the huge numbers and the excitement and the other one was in Bulgaria, where there was a real coming together again of the fans and the players and the support that we all felt that night from our own fans was hugely important for us.

“They are moments that have continued to grow the bond that started in Russia for us, I think.”

England begin their preparations for EURO 2020 in March, when fellow finalists Italy and Denmark visit Wembley in what will be the first fixtures since qualification was confirmed in November.

“We have two good fixtures in March that will really challenge us,” he added.

“Of course, we're already looking at all of the opposition and preparing in the best way we can for that European Championship.

“These are the moments you live for. You want to be in the big matches - people talk about the pressure, but actually if you're not involved in the matches that count and the matches that matter, then it's nowhere near as fulfilling or doesn't give you the drive to get up in the morning.

“We feel there's still room for improvement with the team and that individually and collectively we can still get better.”

As well as pitting their wits against two teams who will also be eyeing up success this summer, it’s also another chance to perform at Wembley where the Three Lions will play all three of their group games in June.

Croatia and Czech Republic are already confirmed, with the group line-up to be completed in March once the EURO play-offs are concluded.

Southgate and his team will be in action at Wembley again in March 2020

And as excitement starts to mount ahead of the summer, Southgate feels the national stadium is a place where his side are beginning to feel more and more at home.

“We look forward to playing at Wembley now,” he said.

“We feel that, rather than be a place that was a bit quiet at times when I started as a manager and our performances weren't exciting people as we wanted to - both of those things are coming together and we have to view it as an advantage.

“I hear a lot of people talk about the pressure of being at home, but you've got to view it as a positive.

“If you put yourself in the opposition's shoes and you were having to go away and play in a major championship then you'd be feeling very differently about the challenge.”

Tickets for the game with Denmark on Tuesday 31 March are already on general sale, with the Heads Up International against Italy on Friday 27 March set to go on sale later this week.

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By Nicholas Veevers