Football's answer to Mark Darcy

An article by our Assistant Producer, Will Walters

The England National Team.

It’s like your estranged auntie who has gone through a torrid time with relationships.

A lady of class, prestige and talent. Something has just never clicked for her.

Whilst all her peers breeze through life with their offspring tugging lovingly at their hands, she is yet to even find the right partner.

They were either too old, too stern or adopted bizarre foreign accents whenever they ventured abroad. Despite promising the world, they only ever delivered a steaming platter of shattered dreams and broken hearts.

Determined, she continued to search high and low, overseas and at home.

After becoming so desensitised to the endless series of disappointments, many barely raised an eyebrow when that “sure thing” from Tinder turned out to be a fraud barely a second after their first (and last) outing as a couple.

A time of self-reflection had to occur. Where was she going wrong? How could such embarrassment and heart-ache be avoided in the future?

It was time to finally be rid of the poisonous, Daniel Cleaver characters of the past.

Little did she know the man to realise her dreams had been there under her nose the entire time, watching admiringly from a distance hoping to one day meet her gaze.

Step forward the original gentleman, football’s Mark Darcy: Gareth Southgate.

The relaxed, low-key atmosphere surrounding the England Football Team this World Cup has without a doubt stemmed from Southgate.

Through my work with TMG, I was fortunate to attend an event at St George’s Park (SGP) towards the end of April, The FA Careers in Coaching Open Day. The FA opened up the doors of SGP to underrepresented (BAME and female coaches) and put them face to face
with potential employers.

As part of the day, I was told that I’d be getting the chance to sit down and have an interview with Gareth Southgate. Where I’m from on Teesside, he’s a bit of a legend. Growing up a huge Boro fan, I’d watched him captain the club to winning our only ever trophy, the Carling Cup, to some unforgettable European nights and a short (and unfortunate stint) as manager. He was a big deal.

As he came to meet us and introduce himself, my inner fan simply could not be contained. Either out of genuine politeness or an appreciation of my enthusiasm, we chatted all things Boro throughout the corridors of SGP on the way to the interview room.

There was no pretence. It was a chat with someone who made you feel equal.

The interview was a breeze and he didn’t have any issues with me asking for a photo to send to my equally Boro-mad mother, back at home.

Not a bad day’s work at all.

An ethos of openness was furthermore implemented through the lauded media day that was made possible through the hard work of our sister company, TMG Support, which gave the press unprecedented access to all of the players.

This did not feel like a team about to fly into the relentless siege of footballing warfare at a World Cup. Then again, Southgate has been key to keeping everyone’s feet on the ground whilst allowing a subtle cauldron of optimism to simmer away in the background.

This chilled-out vibe has travelled with the players to Russia and continues to be transmitted through Southgate – either side of his passionate flurries of euphoric fist pumping –
in his post-match interviews.

Southgate’s approach has protected his young squad, and by doing so has helped them to avoid being “bowed by the pressure of the past”.

We won a penalty shoot-out for goodness sake! This truly is uncharted territory for England. That cauldron is now threatening to boil over.

Our beloved England Team has finally met its match with Mr Southgate and the entire nation could not be happier for them.

So happy, in fact, that there’s rumours going around that they’ve set a date to be officially united and the whole world is invited:

Sunday 15th July.

It’s coming home.

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