The usual suspects are suspicious of the manager winning hearts and minds but we should all be swooning over the inclusivity and ethics he has instilled in the Three Lions, writes Laura Lawrence.
Gareth Southgate has drawn lustful musings from across the gender spectrum this week. Labelled the ultimate middle-aged crush, he’s the man who can defend your country, arouse passion and be useful with a hedge trimmer. Be still my beating heart.
What we want in an international manager is what we want in a life partner: trustworthy, passionate, stoic, useful, gentle, and articulate.
Although some quarters aren’t happy that the England manager is literate. According to a report in the Financial Times, a Conservative strategist told a journalist that Southgate’s essay ‘Dear England’ was “suspiciously well written”. Suggesting that being a mere ex-footballer, he can’t possibly string a sentence together let alone write a piece that can cut through England’s issues with nationalism versus patriotism.
The classicism that players face shines a light on the contempt that some in the government and media appear to have for football and players. It can’t be possible to use their brain for anything other than decisions on the pitch.
Maybe that’s why Marcus Rashford also got up their noses. The sheer snobbery of it all is agitating. Academies work hard to educate their players to prepare them for life as a footballer or, if necessary, beyond the game. The issue is that this type of comment feeds down into the consciousness of fans and sometimes players. Intelligence and compassion are deliberately misconstrued to be derogatory.
Take for example the homophobic abuse former England player Graeme Le Saux used to receive. He too was an articulate, university-educated footballer in the 1990s. Despite being married with kids he was repeatedly targeted by homophobes because reading broadsheet newspapers and forming cogent arguments allegedly confirmed he was gay. An argument as stupid as it is offensive.
The FT article also suggested that some members of the government and their followers believe Southgate is becoming “a tool of deep woke”. A term hijacked to be used as an insult and not it’s true meaning of being alert to injustice.
Look how far players have come in articulating themselves since the days of Robbie Fowler bending over in front of Le Saux to taunt him. Jordan Henderson tweeted his support for an LGBTQ+ fan who attended the England v Germany match in full make-up for the first time. He did this knowing that he would face some backlash. An unsuspicious, compassionate, well-written tweet.
The inclusivity and ethics that Southgate has instilled in this team is what we should be proud of in this country. He’s doing more to unite than divide. Maybe that’s what the naysayers are scared of.
Mundanely sexy, isn’t it?
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR