Wise mouse Southgate quits FA role

July 20, 2012 in International by George Curtis

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All the talk about Robin van Persie appears to have almost hidden the news that Gareth Southgate has quit from his role of the FA’s Head of Elite Development after only 18 months in the job. But don’t fret! The man we all remember best for botching England’s chances of reaching the final of Euro ’96 will still be gracing our television screens with his aesthetic elegance and indicative brilliance (*insert cough*) as a pundit on ITV. “Hurrah, hurrah!” I hear you bellow.

Southgate, who won 57 caps for the Three Lions, was keen to stress his time at HQ was a productive and successful one. “I’d like to place on record just how much I’ve enjoyed working at the FA over the past 18 months”, Southgate said. “It really has been an honour and a pleasure… Hopefully I have been able to play some part in delivering important changes to the way children play at the youngest levels.” Southgate was responsible for bringing in significant changes at grass roots level, including reducing the size of pitches and the number of players per team for all age levels under 13. Despite being tipped to fulfil a role as Technical Director within the FA, Southgate has announced he has no intention to run for the post.

All this means his commitment to ITV has been enhanced, and boy, aren’t we glad? In all seriousness, despite a feeling that Southgate is slightly wet in his approach to TV punditry, aspects of his personality cast a welcome shadow over the idiocy and juvenility of Adrian Chiles and Mark Lawrenson, to name but two examples. One might compare Southgate to a Toyota Prius; steady, reliable and no danger to the environment, but lacking va va voom. Anecdotes are hard to come by, and you may not take much notice of what he has to say, but you’d be an evil person to slay him for it.

One thing you can’t knock him for is intelligence. There is plenty out there whose vociferous approach to punditry gets them more noticed than Southgate, despite usually not saying anything intelligent. Iain Dowie for one, Ian Wright another (thankfully in the latter’s case, he’s tootled off to work on some nomad show on Channel 5 amongst other things). Wisdom may be hiding in the background in Southgate’s case, but at least it’s there. For young, aspiring journalists, like those you read here on Ballsy Banter, there is nothing more infuriating than listening to a clueless sprogg babble on about goodness knows what. The name Andy Gray springs to mind. For people like us, aspirations reach and go beyond talking about football on television with the intention of uttering intelligent, relevant sentences, and it makes our blood boil to see a Gordon Strachan or Alan Shearer wasting that opportunity. Southgate blows and blows and blows, and when he finally blows the house down and muscles his way in between the egos he shares a poncey studio couch with, the words he has to say positively scupper anything that has gone before him.

It is for this reason that such a short stint with the FA may not have been the worst thing for him. The FA is notorious for possessing the stereotypical gorillas constantly mauled for the ‘work’ they do. An environment like that is no place for a little mouse like Southgate. He’s stamped his mark, albeit a fairly shallow one, but has got out before the demons at headquarters can put their greasy fingerprints on his work. A job in punditry is a safer, more stable option and one that will not turn Southgate into a monster, in the same way it has done for Sir Trevor Brooking (although some might argue he has always been of an unsavoury manner). Long live the wise mouse.