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Gareth Southgate believes Euro 2020 pain has made him a better manager

Gareth Southgate believes he has improved as a manager since losing against Italy in the Euro 2020 final as England attempt to qualify for the European Championship finals next summer with two matches to spare.

A draw at home against Italy on Tuesday night would confirm England’s place in Germany after they beat the Azzurri in March in Naples to gain a modicum of revenge for their penalty shootout defeat by Roberto Mancini’s side in that final. Southgate will face a new Italy counterpart in Luciano Spalletti after Mancini’s resignation in August and said he could lean on the experience of becoming the first England men’s manager since Sir Alf Ramsey to reach a major final.

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“You are managing big matches all the time in one of the most high-profile jobs in football so of course, like every manager, you are improving every day,” said Southgate, who will take charge of his 89th match since succeeding Sam Allardyce in 2016. “I’m sure every coach would be saying they are better than six months ago; they know more, are more experienced and have encountered more of the situations.

“I hadn’t managed a European final before so the next one I am in I will have another reference and you have more experience. It’s as simple as that. You can only gain experience by being in those moments. People have asked what I would do differently that night but if I had done something differently I don’t know how that would have played out.

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“You make decisions with the information you have at a given time and it’s played out in front of everybody. Everybody can then, in hindsight, say what should have happened but that tape is never played and nobody really knows the answer.”

Southgate believes England have made significant progress on and off the pitch over the past seven years, during which they have sailed through qualification for tournaments.

“Everybody externally is always questioning,” he said. “But as a young coach you are questioning yourself just as much because you haven’t got evidence. Now I’ve got 10-15 years of evidence. A lot of wins in this job, a lot of big nights in this job where you have far more confidence in what you’re doing and the reality of consistent performances over a long period of time.”

Southgate said he would continue to pick Jordan Henderson despite the midfielder being targeted by booing supporters when substituted during Friday’s friendly against Australia. “Yes, 100%,” he said. “I select the players I think are the best players to represent the team and give us the best chance of winning, unless we think something isn’t appropriate.

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“People might disagree with Jordan’s stance and decision but I don’t think it’s a reason to not select him. I don’t think it’s a reason to boo him. We’d like all the fans behind us. We’re a stronger team with the fans behind us. If it was a popularity contest our team would look very different.

“England fans have been brilliant. They’re behind the team. We’ve had a couple of incidents I don’t understand because I don’t think any player in an England shirt warrants that. I grew up with John Barnes getting that kind of criticism. It doesn’t help the team. We’re all trying to achieve the same thing and create a successful England team.

“There’s one of the best connections between the team and the group for many a decade. In the end, everyone who comes to a football ground pays their money and they’re entitled to react any way they want. We would love them with us. We have more energy if they’re with us. And the team will go further if they’re with us. But if not, we’ll crack on and we’ll keep trying to win.”