Gareth Southgate responded to England fans calling for him to lose his job after the 4-0 loss to Hungary, telling talkSPORT: ‘It’s amazing how quickly things can unravel’.
England were handed their heaviest home defeat since 1928 against the world’s 40th-ranked side, to make it four games without a win in their 2022/23 Nations League campaign.
Draws against Italy and Germany were bookended by defeats to Hungary, which led to boos for the England boss at Molineux as well as chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ and ‘sacked in the morning’.
Southgate was asked about the criticism from the crowd by talkSPORT’s Faye Carruthers, and said it’s the kind of thing that pushes a manager to their limits.
“It’s not a pleasant experience,” he said. “It’s one that all of my predecessors have been through.
“But I’ve had some incredible nights with England, and this is the reality of football. You’re going to have nights that are particularly painful and that might stretch you as a human being right to right to the limits, and tonight was one of those.
“It’s amazing how quickly things can unravel in terms of support and feeling, but I’ve been in football for 30 years or more and this is the nature of football.
“I’ve seen it with England teams in the past and England managers in the past. It’s emotional for everybody. I totally understand it and it’s my responsibility in the end for the results.”
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Before this run, England were in their first major final since 1966 when they lost to Italy at Euro 2020.
They also reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, and Southgate doesn’t think it’s fair to judge this run of results.
He said: “In the end I’ve picked teams to try and navigate these four games, and in the two games with Hungary those teams haven’t been strong enough to get the results.
“That put a lot of pressure on some young players when we went behind that was a little bit too much for us as a group.
“At half time we tried to change the system to make us more of an attacking threat but that did leave us a bit vulnerable, and the second goal you could see punctured the confidence of the team a lot.
“In the end we’re a bit ragged because we’ve got too many attacking players on the pitch, but that’s my responsibility. And I’ve said to the players, they have given everything, they have been a credit right through this period.
“They’ve got to go and get their break now. They need that. They’re ready for that. And you know, it’s my responsibility to accept the criticism that comes.”
On that criticism, Southgate added: “I think tonight needs time for everybody to reflect and to think very clearly about, because I think that the period of games we’ve had, we’re being judged is remarkable, really.
“The two Nations League competitions we’ve had have been the competitions that have brought pressure on, it’s never been a competition in the past.
“The Europeans and the Worlds have been what you’re preparing for in both of those competitions, we’ve been well short of having our full strength teams to pick.
“So if we were at full strength for all four of these games and the results had been as they have been in the two Hungary games, then I think that’s a different matter, but I don’t feel that we have been at full strength. I felt that was the right thing.
“We’ve got a core of players who’ve had an incredible workload throughout the season. We go to a World Cup in the winter, which is going to stretch the season next year.
“I’ve tried to balance all those things, but in terms of the results, we haven’t got them. And I have to accept the criticism that comes with that.”
Southgate’s tenure began with the senior side in 2016, and his first tournament, the 2018 World Cup, brought a first semi-final since England won the tournament in 1966.
Following on from that near miss, the 51-year-old’s Lions went one further at Euro 2020, but a penalty defeat against Italy denied the country a second-ever major trophy.
Southgate was keen to stress that success, in comparison to a lesser tournament in the Nations League, which has quickly become a burden for his side.
He explained: “In the two tournaments we’ve had, we’ve shown this group of players have been the best for 50 years and I think I’ve led that, I think we’ve put those things in place.
“This competition has been an Achilles heel, and I knew this would be a difficult period because I knew we weren’t going to be able to play all of our best players through it.
“I didn’t expect what happened tonight and the extreme of it, but when it’s clear, when now we don’t perhaps have the depth to be able to go into games like that, as excellent as some of our young players are, they need that experience around them and that balance I didn’t get right tonight in terms of my selection.
“As a group of staff, we need to review this whole camp. And clearly lots of things need to improve.
“We’ve got a period where we have to go to Qatar for some workshops and things like that, and then we’ll be preparing for September and the World Cup.
“We don’t really stop for too long, but I think it’s a period where we’ve got to look very closely at obviously what’s happened tonight. It’s a painful experience. We’ve got to take that on the chin.”