Gareth Southgate has admitted his tenure as England manager could end after the World Cup should his team’s poor form result in failure in Qatar.
Southgate (52) has a deal with the English Football Association until 2024, after the next European Championships, but accepts his contract will not protect him from the sack if his team falls short with performances and results.
England face Germany tonight in their last fixture before the World Cup, having failed to win any of their past five matches in the Nations League.
Their only goal in that time has been a Harry Kane penalty against tonight’s opponents in June.
Southgate was jeered off by supporters after Friday’s 1-0 defeat in Italy and has called for unity to help his team return to the displays that took them to the Euro 2020 final just 14 months ago before results turned, with questions now being asked about the manager’s future.
“I am not foolish,” said Southgate. “I know ultimately I will be judged on what happens at that World Cup.
“Contracts are irrelevant in football because managers can have three, four, five-year contracts, and you accept that if results are not good enough, it is time to go your separate ways. Why would I be any different? I am not arrogant enough to think that my contract is going to protect me in any way.”
The FA has shown unwavering support to Southgate, whose record during his six years in charge has seen him take the team from the depths of the defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 to reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Russia, and then losing on penalties to Italy at the Euros final last year.
“I am absolutely appreciative of that [FA support],” Southgate added. “But, of course, we understand how the mood changes with the results and has changed. I am realistic about that and I will be judged on what we do in Qatar and I am perfectly happy to be judged in that way.
“History is history and you are judged on the next match and the next tournament.”
Southgate’s team will be wearing their red away strip against Germany tonight in the first fixture at Wembley since the death of Queen Elizabeth.
Players will wear black armbands, a wreath will be laid by the FA and there will be a minute’s silence in her honour. But fans are also expected to express how they feel about Southgate’s team, 56 days before England’s World Cup opener against Iran.
“We can only succeed if we’re all pushing in the same direction, and we’ve all got that positive energy towards doing well,” Southgate said.
“What happens to me is irrelevant, frankly. It’s about the team. The most important thing is the team and the success of the team.”
He is poised to stick with his three-man defence despite criticism of it being negative, with Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw pushing for starts.
While England have been relegated from the top tier of the Nations League following their loss against Italy, this match effectively a dead rubber, Southgate still needs his team to prepare for Qatar in their last match before flying to the Middle East.
“We have to look after the players, two-day turnarounds are not ideal, really,” Southgate said.
“We have a squad with a lot of caps, so we still have to make sure we are not wasting opportunities to look at things, but we are honing in on a World Cup and we don’t have any more matches after this.
“So there is a greater emphasis on trying to bed things in.”
Germany can also no longer reach the Final Four tournament after their defeat at home to Hungary.
That loss brought an end to Hansi Flick’s unbeaten run as Germany coach since taking over from Joachim Loew in July last year.
Flick will have to make changes in London with Antonio Rudiger suspended. Borussia Dortmund’s Nico Schlotterbeck is likely to come in for the Real Madrid defender in one of several changes at the back.
Thilo Kehrer and Robin Gosens could replace the ineffective Jonas Hofmann and David Raum.
Flick also needs to answer questions in attack, with Jamal Musiala and Kai Havertz threatening to start in place of two from Timo Werner, Leroy Sane, Thomas Mueller or Serge Gnabry.
England v Germany,
Live, Channel 4/VM Two, 7.45
Telegraph Media Group Limited