Southgate's life is antithesis of world of many modern footballers

Nice guys CAN be winners! Gareth Southgate’s life is the antithesis of the glitzy world of many modern footballers… and he’s more likely to celebrate a win at his local tea rooms

  • Football aside, the Southgates relish what many consider a parochial routine
  • One of the only signs of ‘flash’ in Gareth’s life he put up for sale earlier this year
  • He and his son play for village cricket team and he supported daughter at netball
  • Manager, who grew up in Crawley, has become ultimate proof nice guys can win 

Glitzy nightclubs are not Gareth Southgate’s style. He much prefers family gatherings at Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in Harrogate.

A favourite is its £4.25 Yorkshire Fat Rascal Scone – or a visit with wife Alison, daughter Mia, 19, and son Flynn, 15, to their local fish and chip shop, the Wetherby Whaler.

For the England manager’s home life is the antithesis of the blingy world of many modern footballers. He once said he’d ‘never been any good at gambling, drinking, fighting, tantrums, celebrity’.

Football aside, the Southgates relish what many would consider a parochial routine, albeit one based in a stunning 16th Century, Grade I-listed mansion – with its Great Hall, wine cellar and cinema room – overlooking a reservoir famed for its high-quality fly and coarse fishing.

Gareth and Alison Southgate pictured arriving on day six of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2019

All very different from the housing estate in Crawley, West Sussex, where young Gareth grew up. The couple have been married for 24 years and former air hostess and boutique shopgirl Alison is passionate about animals and protecting the environment.

The couple have two dogs, a labrador and a cockapoo named Ted, whom she describes as ‘handsome’. Southgate jokes that both are above him in the family pecking order. Every year for her birthday, Alison asks that instead of giving her a present, friends donate to the Wild At Heart Foundation, a charity that works to end the suffering of stray dogs. The Southgates are also supporters of wildlife charity Born Free Foundation.

One of the only signs of ‘flash’ in Southgate’s life – a black Bentley Continental – he put up for sale earlier this year, though he does still have a Hublot Big Bang watch, designed especially for the Euros, which retails at £4,800.

While Southgate has ditched his famous ‘lucky’ Marks & Spencer waistcoat that he was never seen without at the World Cup in Russia three years ago, he still wears a silver ‘friendship band’ on his right wrist made by British jeweller Monica Vinader.

The £115 piece has a space to be engraved, something that the very private Southgate appears not to have taken advantage of. The bracelet is thought to been given to him by his wife.

While he has continued to wear this special keepsake, he hasn’t worn the ‘shacket’ (a cross between a shirt and a jacket) by menswear brand Percival he sported for England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland after he was teased by fans for it. 

Winning transfer: Gareth Southgate’s Grade I-listed house, which has a Great Hall, wine cellar and cinema room, overlooking a reservoir famed for its high-quality fly and coarse fishing

But fashion never has been one of Southgate’s fortés. In his early days playing for Crystal Palace he wore grey Hush Puppy shoes, prompting his team-mates to nickname him Nord after the late TV presenter Denis Norden. As his career rose, his taste in footwear didn’t improve. In the run-up to Euro ’96, he won a contract to endorse the deeply unfashionable Bull Boy trainers.

Following his infamous miss in the semi-final penalty shootout against Germany, he was moved on from this role but Pizza Hut, of course, came to the rescue by signing him up for a TV advert celebrating his misfortune.

While Gareth shuns showy extravagances, Alison does occasionally enjoy the perks of the good life. She has posted several pictures of herself on a ‘girls’ holiday’ in Barbados where it is thought the couple have a villa. She and her six friends drank cocktails – her favourite a Rum Sour – at the exclusive Lone Star restaurant during the break.

Her husband has often said he hates parties – sheepishly revealing that his favourite karaoke song is Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, which, incidentally, has become an anthem for England football fans.

England manager Gareth Southgate’s modest childhood home on a housing estate in Crawley, West Sussex

Utterly out of character, he once went to a Sex Pistols concert at London’s Finsbury Park with his Euro ’96 team-mate Stuart Pearce, and he is also a fan of indie-pop band London Grammar. When driving to watch matches, he tunes into Radio 1 so, he says, he can ‘listen to what the kids are into’. Otherwise, he prefers Smooth Radio’s Relaxing Music Mix to ‘relive his youth’. 

So he’s probably quietly chuffed that England fans have adopted a song from the girl band Atomic Kitten in his honour. Singing to the tune of their 2000 hit Whole Again, they have tinkered with the lyrics to belt out: ‘Looking back on when we first met; I cannot escape and I cannot forget; Southgate, you’re the one; you still turn me on; and football’s coming home again, you can bring it home again.’

Life up north, 250 miles from his childhood home, hasn’t been a wrench for Southgate as he managed Middlesbrough FC from 2006 to 2009. He and his son Flynn play for the village cricket team. He also spent many years supporting his daughter, Mia, when she played netball at county level.

Gareth Southgate has become the ultimate proof that nice guys can win – it just takes them a little longer.

GARETH SOUTHGATE: A kid from the suburbs with goofy teeth, nothing about me was cool

By Gareth Southgate for The Mail on Sunday 

It all seemed unremarkable at the time, but I recognise now how lucky I was. As a young boy, family life with Mum and Dad offered me stability and love. It’s something everyone deserves – a solid start in life – but the sad reality is that many miss out.

Dad had a job that sometimes took him to different offices around the country, and so we moved house a few times.

Having started life in Watford, we headed for the North of England for a while, and then down to the South Coast.

It meant that as soon as I got to know a few kids my age, we were off and I had to start all over again. I learned to adapt to new situations, socialise and fit in.

Winner: The England boss (circled) pictured with his team-mates from his under-12s days in Crawley in West Sussex

As well as switching schools with every house move, I had to start all over again with my football.

Out on the street, in the school yard or the park, it meant getting to know a whole new set of friends and finding my place among them.

Sometimes this made me feel anxious – but the more I did it, and finally settling in Crawley in West Sussex, the easier it became.

I lived for football. I cycled to school but couldn’t carry my school bag and my sports kit at the same time.

So I’d ride home after lunch to pick up what I needed.

I started training one evening a week with Southampton and was in the same year group as Alan Shearer.

But I was a late developer and, when I was aged 13½, Southampton’s head of youth development told me that the club would be releasing me.

They obviously thought I wasn’t going to be good enough, and they even said they doubted I’d have the build.

England manager Gareth Southgate pictured at the Ukraine v England match during the Euro 2020 quarter final in Rome, Italy, on July 3

I was devastated. It was my first taste of rejection, and it left me in tears.

Around this time I played football on a Sunday in Selsdon, near Croydon in South-East London. A lot of the boys were also training with nearby Crystal Palace.

Once I’d got over the shock of being let go by Southampton, I wondered if there might be an opportunity for me there. I wanted to prove that Southampton had made the wrong decision.

Having been knocked back so early, I found myself responding because of a mixture of negative and positive drivers. I am still motivated by a combination of these two elements.

I was 15 when Palace invited me to play for the under-18 side and then offered me an apprenticeship, with a small wage plus travel expenses from my home in West Sussex.

It meant a choice. After taking my O-levels, I could stay on for A-levels or follow the chance to work through the Palace youth and reserve squads, and finally earn my place as a first-team player. 

England manager Southgate seen speaking with Mason Mount and Jordan Pickford during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship quarter-final match between Ukraine and England

It was a no-brainer. I had been playing well and thought I would just adapt to the step up from schoolboy to apprentice. But I hated it. All of a sudden, the game I played for fun became my work.

Training became much tougher and I was nowhere near strong enough. Early on, we had to do a 12-minute circuit run. On my first attempt, I was lapped by some older apprentices.

The coach made me do an extra lap. By the time I got over the finish line, I was blubbering.

It was my job to mop changing-room floors, clean the toilets and look after the first-team players’ boots.

I didn’t mind hard work, but I struggled with the change from being a schoolkid to a young adult with responsibilities.

Whereas a lot of the other apprentices were brimming with confidence, being the quiet one meant I really stood out.

I didn’t help myself on my first day of training. I was used to wearing smart clothes to travel to matches, and so I thought everyone would dress that way for training. So I wore my school shirt and trousers, only to find that everyone else was in a tracksuit or jeans.

Southgate, Steve Holland, Assistant Manager of England, Graeme Jones and Chris Powell, Coaches of England, stand to sing the national anthem prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship quarter-final match between Ukraine and England on July 3

Cringing to myself, it felt like a disaster before I’d even started. All my peers seemed so much more streetwise, and I was just this kid from the suburbs with goofy teeth.

Nothing about me was cool, and I felt I’d never fit in.

I played in defence for the youth team and we lost five of the first seven games. Soon after, an injury meant I couldn’t play the next game. The coach, Alan Smith, called me in and just spoke his mind.

‘You weren’t going to play anyway,’ he said. ‘You’re a lovely bloke, Gareth, but as a footballer you’ve got no chance. If I were you, I’d think about becoming a travel agent.’

I realised later that Alan wasn’t really letting me go. He was just looking for a reaction. It was his way of waking me up to the fact that I needed to make some serious changes to my outlook and commitment if I was going to survive.

But at the time I left and just cried my eyes out.

I could have taken my coach’s harsh words to heart and my dreams would have ended right there.

Instead, despite feeling very sorry for myself, I knew what I had to do – turn this low moment into a learning experience.

© Gareth Southgate, 2020

Extracted from Anything Is Possible, by Gareth Southgate, published by Cornerstone at £16.99.

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