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It is time for England to seize the moment and settle the debate around Gareth Southgate’s legacy as Three Lions boss once and for all, writes IAN LADYMAN

If Gareth Southgate does well here in Germany, he will register his 100th game as England manager in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024. But as his team prepares to face Serbia in Gelsenkirchen tonight, he is accompanied by the knowledge that what will happen this year Summer will largely define his popular legacy.

Southgate feigns indifference to the debate over his record. There are those among us who believe the 53-year-old has taken the national team’s cause beyond anyone’s expectations during his eight years in the role. But there are many who feel a generation of young attacking players have been stifled by the former centre-back’s inherent caution.

So over the next two weeks and hopefully longer, Southgate has the chance to settle the debate once and for all.

“What we’ve done so far and what our reputation is doesn’t really matter,” Southgate said. “We have the confidence and the proof that we can play well, but we have to perform from tomorrow and we will be judged on what we do in this period and not on anything before that.”

Southgate has said he is likely to leave the post if England do not break a 58-year trophy drought this summer. He has set himself quite the bar.

Gareth Southgate (right) will oversee his 100th match as England manager if his side reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate (right) will oversee his 100th match as England manager if his side reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2024

The England manager (centre) has the ability to set the record straight over his record as England boss

The England manager (centre) has the ability to set the record straight over his record as England boss

The England manager (centre) has the ability to set the record straight over his record as England boss

Some believe Southgate's caution has stifled a generation of young attacking players coming through the England ranks, including Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Jude Bellingham (right)

Some believe Southgate's caution has stifled a generation of young attacking players coming through the England ranks, including Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Jude Bellingham (right)

Some believe Southgate’s caution has stifled a generation of young attacking players coming through the England ranks, including Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Jude Bellingham (right)

Yet he does feel the criticism. Sometimes it seems to tire him a little. Asked how he would like to be remembered when his time is up, he said: “Other people will decide that. I’m not really interested in it.

‘My full focus is on a good start to this tournament.’

However, a few minutes later he talked about how other European coaches view his team. “Everyone recognizes that we have a dangerous side, even if they don’t put us on a pedestal,” he said. “I think they feel like we’ve made a lot of progress in seven or eight years.

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‘When I travel through Europe, you might get a different picture than at home.’

That’s really the gist of it. Despite a World Cup semi-final in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final taking place before the 2022 World Cup quarter-final, the underrating has hurt a bit. In any case, here he prepares to try to win this tournament with the front foot. Southgate, who was expected to play Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander Arnold alongside Declan Rice in center midfield, was happy to acknowledge it was a risk.

“We know he can be a very special player, but we also know this is not something he has done in the last five years,” he said.

Southgate (centre left) believes his England side have made progress during his time in charge

Southgate (centre left) believes his England side have made progress during his time in charge

Southgate (centre left) believes his England side have made progress during his time in charge

Southgate is expected to play Alexander-Arnold (left) alongside Declan Rice (right) in midfield

Southgate is expected to play Alexander-Arnold (left) alongside Declan Rice (right) in midfield

Southgate is expected to play Alexander-Arnold (left) alongside Declan Rice (right) in midfield

England's defeat to Iceland in their final friendly before heading to Germany lowered expectations

England's defeat to Iceland in their final friendly before heading to Germany lowered expectations

England’s defeat to Iceland in their final friendly before heading to Germany lowered expectations

Southgate knows the high-priced football that can be played by players like Harry Kane (centre) and his teammates

Southgate knows the high-priced football that can be played by players like Harry Kane (centre) and his teammates

Southgate knows the high-priced football that can be played by players like Harry Kane (centre) and his teammates

‘There’s an element of the unknown. But I think it’s an opportunity worth taking because it could be something incredibly special.”

England scored 36 goals in opening matches of major international football tournaments

England scored 36 goals in opening matches of major international football tournaments

England scored 36 goals in opening matches of major international football tournaments

Serbia will provide modest opposition, but defeat to Iceland in the final friendly before England’s departure has lowered expectations somewhat at home if not in England’s base camp on the other side of the country.

Southgate knows he has a good side. He knows the high-paying football that can be played by players like Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane, Phil Foden and even Alexander-Arnold. He knows England can win this tournament.

He also knows his back four will be unbalanced, with inexperienced Marc Guehi playing at centre-half alongside John Stones and natural right-back Kieran Trippier filling in on the left. Luke Shaw, England’s natural left-back, is back in full training but is not expected to make it. And then there are other teams and players. Southgate was as impressed as the rest of us at how Germany started their home tournament on Friday by slaughtering Scotland, but wasn’t surprised at all.

Luke Shaw (centre), England's natural left back, is back in full training but is not expected to play on Sunday

Luke Shaw (centre), England's natural left back, is back in full training but is not expected to play on Sunday

Luke Shaw (centre), England’s natural left back, is back in full training but is not expected to play on Sunday

Southgate was as impressed as the rest of us with how Germany started the tournament

Southgate was as impressed as the rest of us with how Germany started the tournament

Southgate was as impressed as the rest of us with how Germany started the tournament

“Germany’s results over the past 18 months do not reflect their performance,” Southgate said.

‘They have some excellent players. They worked extremely hard for each other and the way they played was no surprise.

Serbia vs England predicted line-ups ahead of the opening match of Euro 2024

Serbia vs England predicted line-ups ahead of the opening match of Euro 2024

Serbia vs England predicted line-ups ahead of the opening match of Euro 2024

‘Those players are capable of that and have delivered a very strong performance. They are one of many teams with some really good young players. There are many throughout Europe. Of course, I know the focus is always on ours, but if you look at European football and other competitions you know how many good players there are.”

England trained yesterday before flying west to the Ruhr. Of course, England has a history here, and that’s not good. Sven Goran Eriksson’s side were keen to play in the 2006 World Cup but fell to Portugal in the last eight on a day when Wayne Rooney was sent off.

Southgate has already put his players at the table and warned them of the physical dangers that Serbia poses. There may also be some intimidation. Former Newcastle and Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will have noticed with interest the absence of Harry Maguire – usually the team’s first point of contact on defensive set pieces.

For Southgate, this tournament is an opportunity for his players to step up and make a name for themselves

For Southgate, this tournament is an opportunity for his players to step up and make a name for themselves

For Southgate, this tournament is an opportunity for his players to step up and make a name for themselves

You could also argue that this is also a similar moment for Southgate (pictured) to step up and make a name for himself too

You could also argue that this is also a similar moment for Southgate (pictured) to step up and make a name for himself too

You could also argue that this is also a similar moment for Southgate (pictured) to step up and make a name for himself as well

“They have good individual players, some of whom we know and we know that their dedication and pride is a huge strength for them,” Southgate explained.

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‘We made the players very aware of all these factors during training this week.’

However, England should win this match. If they want to be taken seriously, they really need to do it. Captain Harry Kane is possibly the best striker in the league and for all that Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz and Ilkay Gundogan lit up the Allianz Arena for Germany on Friday, Southgate’s attacking options are just as tempting and England are likely to have done so significantly. greater depth.

There is inexperience in Southgate’s squad. The change in personnel since the last World Cup is not something anyone could have foreseen, not even the manager.

However, summer tournaments are where reputations are made. England have players in their ranks who are starting to move through the gears at club level. Players like Rice, Bellingham, Foden and Saka. If they have enough energy in the tank, this phase can be theirs.

“I think there are opportunities for people to make a name for themselves,” Southgate said yesterday. “This is a moment for them.”

You could say this is also one of those moments for the England manager.

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