By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer, Naples
Gareth Southgate is excited to have another shot at leading England to glory – and hinted that winning next summer’s Euros may see him extend his stay.
Initially brought in as caretaker boss in 2016 following Sam Allardyce’s exit, the 52-year-old led the side to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and third place in the following year’s Nations League.
England were agonisingly close to winning the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, only to lose on penalties to Italy – Thursday’s opponents as Euro 2024 qualification gets under way.
Southgate takes charge having contemplated walking away in the wake of December’s World Cup quarter-final exit to France, but is reinvigorated by next year’s shot at success in Germany.
Asked if the Euros represent his last chance, Southgate said: “Well that depends if we win! I think you have to be careful as a player not to assume when you’re younger that this might not be your last chance as well.
“Of course you’re always going to think you’re going to have other opportunities but injury, form, new players coming through in your position, you can never take that for granted.
“Yes, clearly the older ones know the timescale is quite clear. But everybody else has to be mindful of that as well.”
Pushed on whether he would stay if England win the tournament, Southgate – whose contract expires in 2024 – said with a laugh: “Let’s hope we’ve got that opportunity to make that decision!”
Southgate is looking to record his 50th win as England manager on Thursday – a figure only achieved by Sir Alf Ramsey and Walter Winterbottom.
The England boss is more interested in three key qualification points and a first win away to Italy since 1961 than personal achievements.
However, he is making the most of this fourth major tournament campaign in charge rather than thinking of it as potentially his last big adventure.
“No, I’m just thinking about game to game, preparing the team as well as possible,” Southgate said.
“I’ve for a while felt I need to enjoy the experience. I think that emits itself to the players when you do that. I’m relishing the challenge.”