In the end, the FA didn’t really take a hard look at anyone besides Gareth Southgate to be England boss. He was their only interview and that was enough for the Three Lions, who made Southgate their permanent manager after a relatively successful interim stint. Simply put, they took the easy way out of a tough situation.
The FA found themselves in a bad spot when Sam Allardyce was caught making comments that brought his integrity into question. He had managed just one match and they had to part ways with Allardyce in September. So the FA had to hire their second manager in months, with a black cloud over their heads, after a disappointing showing at the Euros and do so once the club season had already resumed, making it more difficult to hire away managers.
Even calling that a tough situation is being unkind to the FA. They were in an awful spot.
The FA recognized that, which is why they made Southgate the interim manager. He was, at the very least, capable enough. He would manage the team through the end of 2016 while the FA got some distance from the Allardyce drama and had some time to get a better sense of who they could hire in such a bad spot.
As September turned into October, and then November, Southgate was England’s easy way out, though. They didn’t have to worry about interviewing other candidates and the media frenzy that comes with that. Nobody could blame them for distracting a club, as was the case when they talked to Harry Redknapp in 2012. Southgate would take the gig, so there was so potential embarrassment of being turned down either.
But maybe most importantly, by staying in-house and hiring the interim manager, the FA can still blame Allardyce if things go south.
Now, the FA look like they had to hire someone in a bad spot and they took the most readily available man because Allardyce put them in this awful position. The circumstances of Southgate’s hiring will never really go away, and that’s a good way for the FA to absolve themselves of fault. Being able to minimize blame isn’t a terrible way out of what appears to be a no-win situation.
That also doesn’t mean that Southgate isn’t qualified for the job or won’t do it well. After all, he pulled off a pair of wins in World Cup qualifying, plus a draw, leaving him undefeated and England two points clear at the top of their group. He also added an impressive draw against Spain in a friendly. His team had purpose and appeared organized. The players played hard for him. Nothing from Southgate’s four matches in charge indicated that he couldn’t do the job.
In fact, nothing about Southgate’s career indicates that he’s out of his depth as England manager. After a stint leading Middlesbrough, Southgate has spent his career inside the FA, serving as the head of elite development and U-21 manager. That’s minimal first team managerial experience, minimal experience coaching adults and little track record. From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to say how good he is. That’s not to say he’s going to do a good job, simply that we don’t know.
Theoretically, the FA will have a much better grasp on Southgate. After all, he’s been working for them since 2011. They should know just how good he is, senior experience be damned. And maybe they think that he’s going to be a terrific boss, although that’s unlikely because if that was the case then they would have hired him in the summer instead of Allardyce. They didn’t because he wasn’t their top choice then. They had concerns about him. But those concerns get a lot less important then you’re backed against a wall.
The FA found themselves in a situation they had no desire to be in and with no good options. Southgate, at least, was an easy way out and a safe option. So they took it.