Kane is English fans’ hero, Southgate is their darling

Jacob Icia in Moscow, Russia 

English football fans have labeled national team coach Gareth Southgate ‘a football genius’ saying his accidental rise to the Three Lion’s den was a blessing in disguise.

The ever enthusiastic fans, whose zeal to cheer on their teams on the pitch is almost matchless at least by the standards of the 2018 FIFA World Cup here in Russia, paid glowing tribute to the 47-year-old tactician after securing a quarter final spot at the expense of fighting Colombia on Tuesday night.

Notably, the fans who thronged the magnificent Spartak Moscow Stadium to witness the historic penalty shootout jinx break for the 1966 champions, acknowledged there was little expectations for Southgate when he took over from Sam Allardyce in 2016.

“He’s a genius manager. He is meticulous in both short term and long term planning. Smart at match management too. Look at how he avoided a possible semifinal clash against Brazil by deliberately finishing second in Group G?

“He would have easily sealed a draw against Belgium in the last group match, but rested eight first team players knowing he had already qualified for the knockouts. The players were fresh today (Tuesday) against Colombia, and you already have a feeling they really needed that rest for the over 120 minutes they played such a zealous team,” told an excited Harry after the win.

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Southgate, a former Crystal Palace and England international, was put in temporary charge of the senior team on September 27, 2016 when Allardyce resigned just after leading the team in one match due to the infamous English football scandal of 2016.

He took off with a 2-0 win over Malta before drawing 0-0 with Slovenia, followed by a 3-0 victory over Scotland. With confidence growing he was getting it right, he led the current young England team to a 2-2 stalemate against 2010 World Champions Spain to convince the English FA he was the right man for the job on November 30.

He signed a four-year contract, and went on to book ticket for England among the 32 teams for the Russia 2018.

“Honestly it was that Big Sam (Allardyce) crisis that gave him (Southgate) a chance. No one thought about him, but because he was handling the Under-21 side he was installed just to oversee transition.

“How he has won respect from the players over such a short time is just amazing. We can sense it is coming home, he’s just good than you anyone expected,” a Tom Wagner offered.

The phrase “it is coming home” in reference to the trophy they lifted 52 years ago is pegged on the man Southgate, and perhaps the English favorite Harry Kane who leads the Golden Boot chasers with seven goals.

Southgate will be gatekeeping for the side against Sweden on Saturday in Samara, seeking a last-four ticket.

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