Gareth Southgate is proud the worldwide perception of the England national team has changed even if he feels it is a different story in his own country.
After Southgate guided the team to fourth place at the 2018 World Cup, they were runners-up at the last Euros before they suffered a quarter-final exit at the World Cup in Qatar last year.
With the Three Lions no longer viewed as a team built on passion and commitment, as well as boasting two of the world’s in-form players in Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich forward Harry Kane, the 53-year-old feels the nation’s technical ability is now recognised.
“That was one of the reasons I joined the FA 10 years ago to work with the Under-21s. We felt we wanted to do that,” Southgate said in reference to England’s perception.
“We have achieved that throughout the rest of Europe because when I travel I realise that’s how people now see us.
“We haven’t achieved that so much with our own public at times! But it’s interesting to see how we are viewed elsewhere.
“Without a doubt, that’s how we want to play. We were top scorers per game at the World Cup and we’ve been top scorers in qualifying for the two previous tournaments.
“We want the fans to come to Wembley to see goals and exciting performances – and we’ve had some good nights. We will keep trying to do that.”
Bellingham’s goalscoring emergence in a more advanced role at Real gives England another attacking option.
Southgate said: “In terms of what I’ve had, we’ve certainly got some exciting players in the wide and number 10 areas behind the strikers and different types.
“(James) Maddison is different to Jude, for example, with different attributes and so it’s good that we’re not replacing like-for-like during games because it means we can give teams different problems to cope with.”
Such are Southgate’s options in the forward areas that he again left Raheem Sterling out of the 25-man squad originally selected on Thursday to face Malta and North Macedonia.
Youngsters Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer also missed out despite England listing nine attackers in the squad list, but while Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all look assured of a place at Euro 2024, there is less certainty around Kane’s deputy.
Ollie Watkins will aim to impress after scoring in last month’s friendly win against Australia and Southgate will have another name in the mix for March when Ivan Toney is available again following the completion of his ban for repeated betting breaches.
“Next striker into Harry there’s competition. I don’t think anybody’s quite nailed that down yet. I’d say that’s an even fight between a few,” Southgate reflected.
“Ivan’s obviously got a tougher challenge than a lot of the players because he has got that limited time frame, but we think he’s got some really good attributes.
“We’ve just got to see where he is. I haven’t spoken with him for a few months, but I am in touch with the club. We know how he is progressing.
“In the end the key is, when he gets back playing, how he goes on the pitch.”
Greenwood was suspended by United on January 30, 2022 over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online. He faced charges including attempted rape and assault, but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February the case had been discontinued.
Southgate said: “We’re a long path from needing to think about that. I haven’t been tracking his games at this stage and we’ve got a lot of good players in those attacking areas of the pitch.”