Gareth Southgate wants his team to help raise the nation's spirit ahead of EURO 2020

Sunday 26 Jul 2020
Gareth Southgate and his squad will be reunited in September for the trip to Iceland and Denmark

Gareth Southgate is hoping his England team can help to further unite the nation over the next year as they resume their preparations for EURO 2020.

The Three Lions are back in action in September when they begin a new UEFA Nations League campaign with a double trip to Iceland and Denmark before a triple date at Wembley against Wales, Belgium and Denmark in October.

And with a tournament to look forward to next summer and plenty of games prior to then, the England boss is hoping his squad can help restore some hope and spirit to the nation following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've always talked about the team in how it unites people and bringing happiness and taking people's minds away from the day-to-day,” said Southgate.

"We're going to go through a difficult period as a country, we've been through a tough period medically and we're clearly going to have a tough period economically as well and that's going to affect everybody.

Souithgate was able to attend the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, the first games he'd been to in person since March

"Sport is less important than some of the things that have been happening, and will happen, but it does have the power to inspire and put a smile on people's faces as we've seen with the clubs who have won championships and been promoted.

"You see the impact football can have and on a national level, we'd love to be able to do that.”

By the time Southgate’s squad are in situ again, it will be ten months since the group were last together in November 2019.

And with EURO 2020 having been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the England boss is looking at an extended run of games to try and get his team in shape to challenge.

"We start with the Nations League games across the autumn and they're all important for us because we now haven't seen the players for the best part of a calendar year really - it'll be ten months by the time we're together,” he added.

"There's lots that we've got to work on, we've been ranked number four in the world for a reasonable period of time and if we continue not to play, we'll stay there forever!

"But it's been a long time since we've been ranked that highly and now the challenge is those next three spots and how do we improve enough to go into the Euros in a really strong frame of mind.

"We know we're one of a number of contenders but how do we get ourselves as strong as possible?”

Southgate and his staff have been keeping a close eye on the games since professional football restarted in June, but without having to attend the matches physically.

And he’s been happy with what he’s seen as the 2019-20 campaign draws to a later-than-planned close.

"There always is fluctuations in form in that time with some young players emerging and you're always looking at the players that are of interest to us, but also tactically what's going on and physically where teams are at,” he explained.

"We get really good footage from our resources and analysis department, we get wide screen footage which is a little bit better for us than the televised coverage because you see more of the runs off the ball.

"It's not the same as being live, but it's a pretty good substitute for it.”

By Nicholas Veevers