FOX Sports Insider
DOHA, Qatar – England manager Gareth Southgate revealed he and his players had received valuable advice on blocking distractions from a well-known source – Prince William, the future King of England.
As always, the England squad have been under extreme pressure from the national media ahead of Friday’s clash with the United States, which will have a dramatic impact on Group B’s result.
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En route to the tournament, Southgate’s group were visited at their base in St George’s Park by Prince William, in one of his official roles as President of the Football Association, the day before their flight to Qatar.
“We’ve spoken from time to time about the importance of ignoring these things outside,” Southgate said. “We actually had the king-to-be come in and talk to us about it, and he mentioned that, which I think was a point we couldn’t (have) say to anyone better.
“When dealing with social media, you have to ignore the noise. There are always insane stories, you understand it’s important to keep calm in anything that’s important.”
Managing expectations is a crucial part of Southgate’s job.
Football is not a sport in England, it is part national obsession and part religion. Press scrutiny is intense in a patriotic way that’s hard to imagine in the United States.
After England’s dominant 6-2 win over Iran on Monday, Southgate’s squad are huge favorites for another win when they meet Gregg Berhalter’s young brave at Al Bayt Stadium (2pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App). and enterprising Americans. . Berhalter’s team know it’s time to deliver as they only picked up a point against Wales.
However, Southgate called for a reality check. In 2010, the teams met at the World Cup and the game ended in a 1-1 draw after England goalkeeper Robert Green made a terrible mistake.
Earlier, in 1950, an amateur US squad stunned England with a 1-0 group stage win in Brazil.
“Have we ever beat the States in a major tournament?” Southgate asked. “No, I didn’t think so. So we have to try to make history tomorrow. We’re good at that, must perform on the field.
“We know the quality of the American team. The risk for us is that we think because we played well the other day we can just get through to the next game. We have to find that reset button. We won’t.” underestimate the US team at all.”
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There are some feel-good storylines to the USA v England game, and some of them relate to the relationship between Southgate and Berhalter, who became friends a few years ago. When Berhalter became US head, Southgate was the first international manager he contacted.
“No,” Southgate replied flatly when asked if he and Berhalter were really close, before breaking out into a rare smile that belied the truth.
Because the slightly odd, and overall rather endearing, reality about the most important recent game in US soccer history is that the coaches of both teams are friends, have a history together, and are excited for the game to end so things can come again to normality in their relationship of shared expertise.
Alan Smith, who coached both Southgate and Berhalter during his time at Crystal Palace (1993-95 and 2000-01), was impressed but not surprised by Berhalter’s rise.
“You could always tell there was something about Gregg,” Smith told me over the phone from his London home. “We used to joke at Palace that he was our all-American boy but he just had this positive and hardworking attitude and he just didn’t give up.
“It was a difficult time for Palace when he was there (in Smith’s second term) and frankly not a very positive environment, but Gregg has been a professional and a student of the game at all times.
“It’s no surprise that he and Gareth get along well. They are both motivated and intelligent and the kind of people who appreciate the value of sharing information.”
While the importance of football in the United States continues to grow rapidly, it is still a long way from the heat that surrounds Southgate’s position. The role of England football manager has been described as the second most important in the country after Prime Minister.
“I think when he first took it on, it was very similar to the position I first took on,” said Berhalter, who also breathed some humor into the situation by explaining that he “had the ‘blue tick.’ ‘ Not seen lately, writing WhatApp to Southgate, suggesting he was being ignored: ‘Trying to reshape the team’s identity, refocus. The pressure in England is huge and this is different. We all know this is a results-driven business and we are held accountable.
“His record in major tournaments has been outstanding. They’ve had a great start and are a formidable opponent.”
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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and Subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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