England's 'youth club' atmosphere allowing Gareth Southgate's side to thrive

james olley, Jack Rosser
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Gareth Southgate says his England camp often feels like a youth club, but it has created an environment in which his young players thrive.

The Three Lions signed off an unforgettable 2018 with a late comeback win over Croatia to book their place in the Nations League finals next summer.

Southgate has created a vibrant club atmosphere within the England camp, with fewer players withdrawing through one-off injuries than under previous regimes, and it has been vital in their success this year.

“We want them to enjoy wearing the shirt. Any time you go in the dressing room or walking around the hotel, on Saturday night it was like a youth club,” he said.

“You can hear them laughing and joking and having fun and they’re relaxed and they’re enjoying being together and enjoying playing.

"When you see such young players and play with that expression and freedom that’s what we want to create. It’s not a case of what we say it’s how they feel about coming and being a part of it. When they feel the support of the fans, as well, then that makes it extra special for them because it really means more.”

Following international breaks in September, October and November, England will not reconvene until March, when Euro 2020 qualification and preparations for the Nations League semi-final in Portugal begin.

Southgate will now break for some much needed rest but, as has been the case since the World Cup, the evolution of his squad, and philosophy, will not be put on hold over the festive period.

“There are a few internal planning meetings to have. There is the [Nations League] draw at the beginning of December and that then drives next year and everything we do,” he continued.

“I have got some opportunities to go and look at other sports; like the rest of the coaching staff we want to keep learning and improving on what we are doing in various areas – how we present to the players or how we deliver set plays, whatever it might be.

“The beauty of this job is that you do get this period now where to be honest I am going to have a bit of a rest. I did not really achieve that in a couple of weeks over the summer because we were always looking at September.

“But there is a lot to study and look at and get better because the players will challenge us. Their level is high and the level of the coaches they are working with at their clubs is high, so we have to make sure we constantly push our standards and make an environment that allows them to be world class when they come back to it.”