Harry Redknapp interview: ‘When it comes to Gareth Southgate, I share Graham Taylor's view’

Harry Redknapp interview: ‘When it comes to Gareth Southgate, I share Graham Taylor's view’

“They weren’t very good at all. I’ll be honest: they were disappointing games”, says Harry Redknapp of England’s group-stage showing at Euro 2024.

He speaks, without doubt, for the vast majority of England fans across the nation and out in Germany, frustrated by the way an extremely talented and much-lauded squad lugged themselves through the group stage with an uneventful 1-0 win over Serbia and uninspiring draws against Denmark and Slovenia.

“We have a big problem, really”, says 77-year-old Redknapp, the former West Ham and Tottenham manager considered for the England job in 2012 but ultimately overlooked by the FA in favour of Roy Hodgson.

“We keep saying we lack a defensive midfielder and miss Kalvin Phillips. We haven’t produced one for a long, long time — somebody who gets hold of the ball in midfield and dictates the play, like a Paul Scholes later on in his career. A Luka Modric, who’s going to have 100 touches of the ball and make you play, play, play. So we never seem to be in real control of a game.

“Back in the day, there were a lot of those types of players around, always available to take the ball. Lacking a player of that ilk is our biggest problem.”

Midfield has without doubt been a problem position for England. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher have both proven failed experiments alongside Gareth Southgate’s one undroppable midfield player, Declan Rice. Redknapp believes Kobbie Mainoo, pushing for a start in the round of 16 against Slovakia on Sunday, “could be the one”.

Yet “that’s not been our only problem”, Redknapp says of England’s unbalanced midfield. “We’ve looked lethargic. You’re relying on Harry Kane — best centre-forward around, there’s no one better — and on [Phil] Foden.

“The first three games, we’ve not been very good. In the knockout stages, I’m sure our game will pick up. We’ll look a different team.”

Redknapp, like many, was alarmed by Kane’s admission after the 1-1 draw with Denmark that England players didn’t know how or when to press.

“They [the England coaching staff] have got all day, every day, with those players and have got to know their jobs, surely”, Redknapp bites. “I’m surprised they don’t know.”

So what of the job of Southgate? In his fourth tournament as England manager and drawing criticism from many corners, he looks set to walk from his job after these finals, whatever happens.

“He’s done a good job”, Redknapp explains. “But he has had the players to win a tournament. They’re not an average bunch of players; they’re far better than any other group in the tournament, without a shadow of doubt in my mind. We’ve got better players even than the French.

“We should have won Euro 2020 against an average Italian team in all honesty. We did OK in the World Cup and were unlucky not to beat France.

Harry Redknapp believes Gareth Southgate has done a good but not great job as England job (Sorare)
Harry Redknapp believes Gareth Southgate has done a good but not great job as England job (Sorare)

“I always hark back to what Graham Taylor said many years ago: ‘Your manager is never as good as you think he is and never as bad as you think he is. He’s somewhere in between.’ That’s about right with Gareth.”

Redknapp offers plenty of arguments for and against but — and he is not alone here — struggles to cast decisive judgement on Southgate’s eight-year tenure.

“He’s done a good job. If he wins the tournament, you’d say he’s done a great job. But he hasn’t done badly, whatever anyone says. He isn’t a 10/10 and he certainly isn’t a 5/10 either. As Graham said, he’s somewhere in between.”

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