GARETH SOUTHGARE is impressively masterminding England’s entry into a new era.
That is the verdict of Gary O’Neil, who served under the Three Lions boss during his Middlesbrough days.
It was Southgate who paid £5m to capture the midfielder from Pompey in August 2007 as Harry Redknapp cashed in.
O’Neil subsequently made 120 appearances and scored nine times for the Riverside Stadium club during a three-and-a-half year stay.
Southgate remained as his manager for two of those years, before getting sacked to make way for Gordon Strachan in October 2009.
And O’Neil still retains great respect for his ex-boss, who is presently earning plaudits overseeing England at the World Cup finals.
He said: ‘Gareth signed me for Middlesbrough and I’m really pleased he is doing well.
‘From what I hear, all the lads in the England squad love him and he has built a really good team spirit.
‘I think everyone was a little bit sceptical about his appointment to begin with, whether he was strong enough or big enough to take the job. Obviously, he will be judged how we do in the World Cup.
‘He has definitely turned the feeling around about the England squad and is moving us into a new era, which is good.
‘Gareth got the Middlesbrough job probably slightly too early for him. Even though I enjoyed playing under him, it was just a difficult time for the club, they were trying to move in a different direction and sold a lot of players.
‘It wasn’t an easy job, but if he was to get a Premier League job now he would find it a lot easier.
‘And having watched and listened to him recently, he looks really good.
‘He’s a genuine guy and at Boro actually cared about everyone. He wanted us all to do well and was very genuine in everything he did around the place, as well as extremely knowledgeable.
‘Gareth played at the highest level and had lots of good ideas, but it must have been difficult to go from captain of the dressing room where you are one of the lads to then moving up to be in charge of all of them and separating yourself a bit.’
England have reached the final 16 at the World Cup, with a clash against Belgium on Thursday to decide group placing.
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