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Gareth Southgate’s off-field headache

ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate has admitted off-field issues take up much more of his time than he would like after he spent yet another day sorting out problems regarding his players’ behaviour.

Southgate yesterday faced the media to discuss sending home Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood following their breach of coronavirus regulations in Reykjavik, where they reportedly invited two women back to the team hotel, when he would rather have been discussing tonight’s fixture in Denmark.

It is not the first time the 50-year-old has had to focus on non-footballing matters, having only recently selected Harry Maguire (pictured) following his arrest and subsequent charge in Greece last month, then dropped him when he was convicted — a conviction nullified after an appeal was lodged.

Southgate cut a frustrated and disappointed figure as he revealed four years ago he had to give serious consideration to stepping up from caretaker-boss to coach on a full-time basis, given what comes with the territory.

‘I’m not naive enough to think managing a big club is a walk in the park without any side issues [either],’ he said.

‘I’m as comfortable as I can be with that [scrutiny]. That’s the task I took on and I knew when I took the role, which is why I was slightly reticent. I knew the implications for my own family, frankly, and not me.

‘I’m big enough to deal with whatever’s said. You know every decision you make is questioned and you find yourself in numerous situations where whichever decision you take, some people will agree and some will disagree.

‘This is a job like no other in terms of the things you have to deal with. All management roles are difficult. This is another level of the things you have to deal with. [But there] are innumerable privileges — to lead your country and wear the Three Lions.’

After another tricky day of dealing with side issues ahead of the behind-closed-doors game in Copenhagen, it was put to Southgate that football is merely a subsidiary topic when it comes to being the England manager and he replied: ‘That is a brilliant observation. It’s just unique.

‘I watched managers when I was younger who were in the role and you recognised the attention, the pressure on football decisions, team selection and squad selection, and no performance ever being good enough and questions about absolutely everything that happens on the pitch.

‘What I didn’t realise was all the external issues you have to deal with. You’re in a position where you’re answerable pretty directly to government, dealing with the royal family, a spokesman for the nation.’

Asked what he likes about the role, he added: ‘Enjoyment is… it’s been great to get on the (training) pitch and work with the players and when you see them performing and enjoying their football and the camaraderie between them and the way they engage with each other.

‘The rest I have to park and accept that’s part of the job.’

RYAN GIGGS has warned England to expect an improved Wales at Wembley next month. Nations League victories over Finland and Bulgaria mean Wales are now eight games unbeaten. And manager Giggs said: ‘They [Finland and Bulgaria] are further ahead in their seasons but when we’re better physically I think you’ll see an improvement. ‘We will be better in October and we go into every game thinking we’ve got a chance.’