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Why we will need a statue for Southgate

OPINION: If our World Cup stars can take the golden chance before them, the children of the future will be told the legend of Sir Gareth, the accidental hero

05 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

England boss Gareth Southgate

ONE day, when we are grey or gone, children will walk past the statue and dream. Teens will look up at the carefully roughed bronze, each whisker of our leading man’s beard perfectly accounted for, and ask to be retold the legend of the summer that never ended.

“Tell it to me again, papa, about the man, just one more time.”

“Ok, kiddo. 2018? I couldn’t have been much older than you back then but I remember it being hot for days. And this guy? This guy was Gareth, a gentle man, really, just like you and me…”

And right there the tale of our World Cup adventure in Russia will be recounted next to a waistcoat preserved forever in unbreakable metal.

It’s a story that will sound better as it is passed down to each new generation; nobody will remember that England were, whisper it, a little boring in their tactics and scored mainly from penalties and deflections, or that we were only ever half-convinced that the manager knew what he was doing.

The inscription will not say: “Beat the Panama pub team, toiled past Colombians and ‘then it was only Sweden’”.

No, the plate on the Southgate statue, if England bring home the trophy, shall simply say: Sir Gareth Southgate. England manager. World Cup winner 2018.

Good. For if he – we – take the golden chance before us, the children of the 2050s, 2060s and beyond will have to suck up the legend of Southgate, the accidental hero, like we’ve always had to listen to Kenneth Wolstenholme’s 1966 commentary over and over again. Just think, in the bars of Moscow right now there are commentators fantasising that it will be they who deliver the perfect line to an England winning goal in the final next week.

England glory and a Southgate statue – note to Gormley: a beautifully sculpted double fist pump and bared teeth is my preferred choice of design – would spread the hopeful world message that anything is possible. A man on the moon, a black president, a female Dr Who, a slightly dorky centre-back becoming a World Cup-winning manager.

Imagine. It would be a totem for the basic, enduring quality of “being nice”, a spear to Mourinho management and a monument to the honest endeavour of trying and trying again. Like the mathematical theory which says monkeys would eventually bash out the complete works of Shakespeare with enough typewriters and infinite time, it would also restore faith in a law of probabilities which must surely state that if you play enough penalty shootouts, at some stage you will win one. Eventually.

We used to think England needed forever to type their own Midsummer Night’s Dream too, but it might now just be 10 days away. Prepare Gareth’s statue.

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