Gareth Southgate urges England players to keep Euro 2020 fever burning ahead of Hungary clash

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England manager Gareth Southgate has been awarded the Freedom of Middlesbrough (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)
England manager Gareth Southgate has been awarded the Freedom of Middlesbrough (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Gareth Southgate has told his England players to play their part in ensuring the Euro 2020 fever carries on beyond this summer.

The Three Lions manager accepts the national team face a fight to keep supporters interested now the that Premier League season has begun.

Autumn international breaks are traditionally treated with apathy, with fans focused on the title race and Champions League football.

But Southgate believes England can build on their success in recent tournaments – reaching the Euros Final and the semi-final of the last World Cup - and he insists the players must take on the responsibility of keeping supporters interested.

Ahead of Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary, he said: “I think we had over 25million people watching the semi-final. I don’t know numbers of the final.

“The country engaged with the team like [we’ve] never seen for decades.

“It is a challenge in the autumn when fans are back into club football. It is a dual focus. We can only perform and play well. The key is that the players are engaged, proud to play for their country and ready to do the job.

“It is up to us to play well and win matches and engage with supporters.”

With the Qatar World Cup coming up in just over a year, Southgate is determined to go deep into a third straight major tournament – and even go one better than the Euros, which saw England lose to Italy in the final on a penalty shootout.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“The team have gained confidence from what achieved,” he added. “There was progress this summer and over the last four years.

“We have to start again. The journey to having the chance to have another run like that is underway.

“For the qualifiers we have got to be at our very best. Mentally it is a good test.

“We are away from home in front of 60,000 fans and against a very good team.

“We’ve got to be a team that copes with all different environments. We’ve got to go away and pick results up as well.”

Hungary are currently second in Group I – two points off leaders England.

Southgate said: “In terms of qualifying this is a really important opportunity. If we take points off our closest challengers away from home we are in a strong position. We will be in control of the group.”

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