Monday 04 February 2019, 10:37

Southgate: The NFL aided England's World Cup

  • Gareth Southgate attended Super Bowl LIII alongside Messrs Martinez and Moyes

  • He revealed American football helped England thrive at Russia 2018

  • Southgate hailed the NFL’s strategising and media relations

Wondering if there was a secret to England scoring a whopping nine goals from set-pieces at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™?

There was. Let us spare you a few guesses…

England’s scheme scribbler learned how to get the best from a dead adidas Telstar 18 by studying plays from a leather, prolate spheroid ball. Gareth Southgate attended his third Super Bowl last night, watching the New England Patriots defeat the LA Rams.

"We're always looking for those set-play situations,” the 48-year-old told Sky Sports. “The details that NFL coaches go into on those things is phenomenal.

"We were at a coaching conference yesterday with some coaches from the [Atlanta] Falcons. The hours that they spend in team meetings to get that detail right – I mean, our lads can just about stomach 15 minutes then we have to get them out!"

Southgate attended Super Bowl LIII with Roberto Martinez, whom he strategised against twice at Russia 2018, and David Moyes, among others, and did American football punditry stints on Sky Sports and the BBC. The former defender revealed set-piece strategies wasn’t the only thing he learned from studying the NFL.

"We were looking at everything,” Southgate said. “We were looking at some of the NFL coaching techniques, the work of specialist coaches in particular. We looked at their media day, how they interact with the media, that was really important for us in the summer."

England eliminated Colombia on penalties and Sweden 2-0 to reach the Russia 2018 semi-finals, where they were undone by Croatia. The squad’s cosy relationship with the British press, which had been notoriously frosty under Southgate’s predecessors, was attributed as a key factor.

“We travelled out to the [Seattle] Seahawks before the World Cup,” he told the BBC. “You're always learning and we had the chance to interact with lots of different coaches. Some that travelled out went into think tanks on various different issues on managing people and leadership and detail within games.

“We run attacking patterns. In various areas of the field, the players know the runs they should be making, trying to arrive in space at the moment the passer is lifting his head. So there are lots of similarities, but less interference from the coach.

“You’re trying to, as a coach, paint pictures. Then you’re relying on their individual talent in those key areas of the field to go and deliver something. So, I’m guessing you can give the ball to a running back but then he’s going to manipulate his body to evade those challenges and that’s down to his individual talent.

“It’s very similar if we give the ball to a winger and they have the ability to beat a defender one against one. That’s the moment they take charge.

"You're always trying to bring new ideas to your team and new ways of thinking, and anything that can possibly add to what you're delivering."

So, Southgate will continue studying the NFL, envisioning Dele Alli as his Tom Brady, Harry Maguire as his Aaron Donald, Marcus Rashford as his Le'Veon Bell, Raheem Sterling as his Antonio Brown and Harry Kane, who also attended Super Bowl LIII, as his Julio Jones.

Will it help England score more touchdowns when they face the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals in June?