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Euro 2024: For Gareth Southgate’s England, it may be now or never

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Gareth Southgate’s England land in Germany to face the acid test that will either confirm them as the real deal or simply the nearly men who cannot get over the line when it matters.

Southgate’s reign – whether it concludes at the end of their Euro 2024 campaign or stretches beyond – must always be viewed through the prism of the progress made in relation to the shambles he inherited.

Now 53, Southgate was handed the role permanently in November 2016 after the Football Association’s 67-day and one-match dalliance with Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce had succeeded Roy Hodgson, who resigned following England’s dismal last-16 exit to Iceland at the Euros in France.

Since then, Southgate has taken England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, the Euro 2020 final and the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar.

Friday’s embarrassing Wembley defeat to Iceland, their famous conquerors at Euro 2016 who are now ranked only 72nd in the world, was hardly the fanfare farewell England wanted as they head off to Germany.

It left Southgate with plenty to ponder before Sunday’s tournament opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen but should also be viewed in the wider context of it being a friendly before the serious business starts.

There is much to be optimistic about as England touch down and head to their base in Blankenhain.

Southgate has also brought about a sense of wellbeing inside England’s squad, where players now enjoy representing their country without feeling dragged down by the weight of the shirt and expectation, as well as having generated a sense of goodwill towards the team and himself once more from outside.

Indeed, Southgate’s reign has provided enough storylines for a West End Theatre production titled Dear England – the problem being there is no happy ending to this story either on stage or on the pitch.

Dear England is, however, making a comeback next spring with a few blank spaces at the end of the current script waiting for Southgate and his squad to change the narrative to a winning one at Euro 2024.

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