England’s national team handler, Gareth Southgate has shot a look ahead of his team’s impending international friendly against Nigeria and reckons that the Super Eagles will give his side variety in the styles of oppositions they have confronted in recent time.
Southgate pointed out that, aside the fact that England will face an African team, Tunisia, at the World Cup, playing against the Eagles on June 2 will accord them the experience of a different challenge from what they are used to.
Southgate, who starred for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough during his active playing career spanning almost two decades, said he is looking forward to the Eagles’ test at Wembley Stadium, London.
The match will be only the third international match between both countries at senior level since Nigeria and England first clashed in a post -USA’94 World Cup game at the old Wembley Stadium on 16th November 1994. Former England captain David Platt scored the only goal of the game off a late first half header.
Both teams met again at the Nagai Stadium in Osaka, Japan on 12th June 2002 in a keenly-contested goalless encounter that saw the Super Eagles being eliminated at the group stage of the Korea/ Japan 2002 World Cup.
A holder of the UEFA Pro Licence, Southgate has been in coaching since 2006 from Middlesbrough to the England U-21, to the Three Lions.
He had a rough and tumble period at Middlesbrough where he was eased out in 2009 and was in-charge of the England team for the European Under-21 Championship in 2015 – where they were knocked out in the group stages after finishing last in their group.
Southgate was put in temporary charge of the senior England team in 2016 when Sam Allardyce resigned after one game due to a ‘transfer bung’ scandal.
After some impressive results including a 2–0 win against Malta, goalless draw with Slovenia; 3-0 thrashing of Scotland 3–0 and a 2-2 draw against Spain; he was appointed substantive England manager on a four-year contract on 30 November 2016.
Southgate is one of the few relatively young managers heading to Russia 2018 World Cup but he reckons the wisdom of coaching at the international level has nothing to do with age, saying what is required for such a high profile job as England manager is resilience.
He disclosed: “We didn’t choose Nigeria just because we had an African team in our group at the World Cup finals.
“The truth is that we don’t often have the opportunity of playing teams outside Europe and we thought it was a great opportunity playing against Nigeria.
“I was in the squad when we played them (Nigeria) in 2002 and there have been a lot of Nigerian players that have been successful in the Premier League.
“Like (Nwankwo) Kanu and (Austin) Jay Jay Okocha; both of them really made a great impact in our league and they are my favourite Nigerian players.
“I’ve gone through the baptism that I could go through and you must be resilient to be involved in the game for 37 years as a player and manager.
“I have devoted over 30 years to the game; though I’m one of the young managers on the international scene, but all the same I don’t think being 47 years of age is a big thing. It’s not about your age but your experience and resilience.”