What would Gareth Southgate teach our children?

These days we all think we know a little bit about what #GarethSouthgateWould. There have been thousands of tweets about how Gareth Southgate would bottle feed injured birds, give you a lift to the airport and always know which day to put the bins out after a bank holiday.

In truth, of course, none of us really know what Gareth Southgate would do. Like the time my husband was cornered by a persistent stalker in a West London shop and asked: “if you were Gareth Southgate, would you tell me?” A question that I believe even the real England Manager might have been puzzled by.

I’ve followed Gareth Southgate’s career closely, because my husband does bear an almost uncanny resemblance to him. I could tell so many stories about this. How for years we went to our regular Indian restaurant on the Isle of Dogs as Mr. and Mrs. Southgate, because in the end it was easier than continuing protesting: “no, there’s no relation”. How one time in an airport in Portugal, an acquaintance of ours mistook the real Gareth Southgate to be my husband.

So few days ago, when “Neil from Surrey” emerged in news as the one true Gareth Southgate lookalike, I was a bit amused. Looking at this man, I can tell you that there are definitely more than #onlytwoGarethSouthgates. Since then, lots of bearded men started posting pictures of themselves wearing a waistcoat. I found myself feeling a bit annoyed. Then I felt a bit ridiculous with my annoyance.

“How dare these imposters invade on our turf?? We are, and always will be, the only real fake Southgates!”

Perhaps my annoyance was to do with the fact that it took so long for Gareth Southgate to get the recognition and opportunity I always felt he deserved. For years we had been watching him on tv, wishing him well like he were a distant, famous relative or something (it’s difficult not to feel that way, when even your four-year-old daughter goes: “daddy, you and that man have the same head!”)

However ridiculous the original reasons behind my Gareth Southgate fascination may be, I have been giving his recent success a lot of thought. In so many football tournaments I have seen the England players shaking at the penalty spot, as if always knowing that afterwards they would be blamed and shamed by the media. It is like the grown-up equivalent of putting someone on the naughty step for spilling their milk. No good will come out of it.

Of course you need good players to score goals, but I believe it takes more than just choosing the right players to be a great England Manager. It takes someone with emotional intelligence and the right communication skills. Someone who genuinely wants you to succeed, but will understand how you feel if you don’t. Someone who will stand between you and the rest of England, managing expectations. And yes, someone who has been shaking in that penalty spot and come out stronger.

Seeing Gareth Southgate comfort the Colombian player who missed the crucial penalty was enough to make me teary. What a fantastic role model for any child it would be, to see your parent comfort the boy in the other team that just lost the game? Signalling: “I genuinely care about how you feel”.

Now Gareth Southgate is being baked into a national hero and a style icon – and I would say rightly so. Soon he may have done more for the struggling M&S clothing line than the Duchess of Cambridge ever did for any high street brand. People seem to think that Gareth Southgate would be your ideal neighbour and co-worker.

Personally I think it’s worth reflecting on how we could all aspire to be more like Gareth Southgate as parents. Let us teach our children that success is about perseverance and quite often can be achieved through understanding other people and caring about their feelings.

And, like just about everyone in England, I am so hoping that it’s coming home! But whatever happens, congratulations to you Gareth. Positively no one could have pulled off what you have done.


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