Southgate on England's standing: 'On the world stage, we're not there'
Gareth Southgate says a mortifying montage at the last World Cup made him realise how far England are away from matching the world's leading international teams.
Southgate was England's Under-21 boss when Roy Hodgson took the Three Lions to Brazil in 2014 and travelled as part of the Football Association's delegation.
He arrived full of pride but found his spirits punctured when he settled in at a stadium and found England entirely absent from the big-screen celebration of the competition's rich recent history.
"I remember going to the World Cup in Brazil, scouting, and they have those montages before the game of highlights of previous tournaments and it suddenly struck me ... 'we're not on them, none of our players are on them,''' he recalled.
"We think we're whatever, but I'm looking at it and there's all the Brazilians, the Spaniards, the French ... and we're not there. I'm almost sinking into my seat because you walk in there thinking you're part of England, which I'm massively proud to be, but actually, on the world stage, we're not there at the moment.
"I think there's a harsh lens needed on some of the things we are doing. We need to look at who the top teams are and how we get to their level.''
Southgate was part of the last England team to reach the final four of a World Cup or European Championship, under Terry Venables at Euro 96, and accepts that grim statistic does not lie.
"We've won three games in 25 years and the last one was in 2006. Whatever we think we are as a nation, we've not been delivering,'' he said.
"We seem to have won medals in almost every other sport and ours is the missing piece. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the profile of our league, as we are seeing at the moment. Eight or 10 years ago we were always involved in the Champions League semifinals and finals and that isn't the case anymore.
"One of the things I want to talk to the players about is the fact that we always talk about what we'd like to achieve but don't look at the reality of where we are.
"I think part of trying to affect that is to start saying: 'Listen, these are the realities of where we are.'
"So there's a challenge for English coaches and for English players. Getting the players to embrace that challenge is the task I've got to take.''
That Southgate has embraced it is doubtless and while he is brutally honest about the stark realities facing the national side, he is equally enthused by the promise of those at his disposal.
"I think we've got some really exciting potential. When I speak to some of the foreign managers at the top English clubs, they like a lot of the young English players,'' he said.
"They speak highly of the potential of a lot of the players coming through. But a lot of them are young and they don't have these big-game experiences yet.
"We've got to try to guide them on that path and try to get results at the same time and take on all the challenges that this brings.
"That's what I want to be involved in. I want to be involved in something that matters, that people care about. To lead the national football team is something I'm incredibly proud of, but I'm not sitting there every morning over breakfast thinking how brilliant it is. I'm thinking how can we get better.''