Gary Neville has urged the FA to tie down their “greatest asset” Gareth Southgate ahead of England’s first appearance in a major tournament final in 55 years.
The Three Lions are out to win the European Championship for the first time in their history on Sunday when they face Italy at Wembley Stadium.
Win or lose, this run to the final is the latest mark of the progress made by international football’s perennial underachievers, who also made it to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup under Southgate.
And Neville believes English football chiefs must do all they can to keep the man who has masterminded these recent successes in charge for as long as possible.
He told Sky Sports: “I said it four or five weeks ago that I thought that Gareth Southgate is our greatest asset and I’m still absolutely of that opinion.
“There is nobody in this country that knows international football better than Gareth Southgate in terms of tournament football and that’s got the ability to coach.
“Many of us have been to many tournaments, but he’s then been in the U21s.
“He’s been in the system, he knows exactly what it’s like to coach in the system of the FA, understands the politics and the way in which the FA works and accepts that and [doesn’t] make it a problem, which many managers in the past have.
“All those things that are difficult to contend with, the media, the handling of players, the club v country stuff – he’s seen all that before in his playing career and U21s career and all those things that he’s seen happen wrong before he’s been able to put right through his experiences as England manager and that’s why he is our greatest asset.
“We should try and keep him for as long as we possibly can, that’s not to say we’ll win [against Italy], that’s not to say we’ll win in the next tournament or do well in the next two tournaments but I genuinely don’t believe there is anyone who has got the experience, knowledge and capability to perform for England like he has.”
A raucous atmosphere is sure to greet England as they step out onto the Wembley turf aiming to secure their first trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup at the same stadium.
But Neville expects the players to be better prepared for the emotion of the occasion after experiencing similar during their semi-final win over Denmark.
He continued: “It’d be interesting to know whether the pressure impacted the players in the first half an hour of the game against Denmark because the first 20 minutes after kick-off – it was absolutely mesmerising, spine-tingling to the point where it had an impact upon us [in the stadium].
“No England player would have seen that since Euro ’96 so I can’t believe that didn’t have an impact on them in the first half an hour.
“They were in a special place on Wednesday but I think because of that they will be used to it and will be better prepared for what’s going to happen [in the final].
“Germany was good but Wednesday was absolutely off the scale against Denmark. It was brilliant.”