Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gareth on THAT Song and Why Squad Train with a Funky Chicken

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gareth on THAT Song and Why Squad Train with a Funky Chicken

Article excerpt

GARETH Southgate has expressed pride in the unifying power of England's World Cup adventure, which has reconciled him with terrace favourite 'Three Lions' after 20 years of hurt and brought respite from political divisions back home.

On the eve of the World Cup semifinal against Croatia, the Three Lions manager gave another masterclass in easy-going charm in a packed media conference at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium - cheerily answering on a range of topics.

They included his team's use of a rubber chicken during yesterday's training session in Repino, the cultural phenomenon that his waistcoat and the inescapable chants of "it's coming home".

But he was also eager to embrace the serious side of England's unlikely achievement.

Southgate's measured authority throughout the tournament has seen him light-heartedly tipped for political office on social media and he made a thinly-veiled reference to the bitter societal splits over Brexit as he surveyed the joyous scenes of celebration which have taken place up and down the country.

"Our country has been through some difficult moments recently in terms of its unity, and sport has the power to do that (unite people)," he said.

"Football in particular has the power to do that. We can feel the energy and feel support from home and it's a very special feel, a privilege for us.

"We've had the chance to make a difference. Our supporters, our country has had a long time of suffering in terms of football.

"The enthusiasm they have for these players, not only because of the way they've played but how they've conducted themselves... they've been brilliant ambassadors for our country, everybody can see they are proud to wear the shirt."

Southgate, of course, was equally honoured to do so over nine years and 57 caps as an England international.

Yet when his own chance at semifinal glory came it ended in despair from the penalty spot at Euro 96. Then, as now, England fans spent much of the summer belting out "football's coming home" - the refrain of the anthemic track by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightning Seeds. …

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