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Gareth Southgate should stay on as England manager, says Paul Merson

Paul Merson reflects on England's World Cup quarter-final exit to France and why it shouldn't bring the curtain down on Gareth Southgate's tenure; Plus: Magic Man explains why Harry Maguire was the Three Lions' shining star in Qatar

Paul Merson
Image: Paul Merson

In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson makes the case for Gareth Southgate staying on as England manager despite Saturday's World Cup exit to France, examines where it went wrong for the Three Lions, and why Harry Maguire returns from Qatar with his head held high.

Why would Southgate walk away from England?

I hope Gareth Southgate doesn't go. I heard him say he's fed up with all the criticism that comes with the job but it's no worse than the criticism that comes with managing a club, at least he only gets criticised every now and then with England.

If I was Southgate I would stay on. He's the manager of England, he's very well paid, he's almost guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2024 where he can have another stab at winning a tournament.

What else is he going to do, manage a team in the bottom half of the Premier League where he's constantly putting out fires and battling to keep a team up? Compare that to meeting with the best talent in England every few months, sitting back and watching how good they are.

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Martin Tyler would love for Gareth Southgate to stay as England manager for the Euros in 2024, but believes his incredible achievements with the national team give him the right to choose when he leaves the job.

As England manager you often see Gareth watching the big Premier League matches. If he moves into club football he will still be going to those games, only this time he'll be watching those big teams pommel his team. He's got to think twice and have a real good think about what he does next because the grass isn't always greener.

Why would you walk away? Because someone said you should have done this or that? You don't hear too many managers criticising Southgate. I've heard a lot of people who have never managed in their life criticising him. It's a bit different when you're the manager, it's all well and good criticising when you have no experience of what it is like. I don't know what people are watching sometimes.

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Former Scotland international Kris Boyd teases the Sky Sports News panel by revealing a France shirt from underneath his jumper.

Southgate has got an unbelievable job. He's working with the best talent England have had for a long time. We are big players, serious contenders whenever we go to a tournament, we are no longer also-rans thanks to him. This story doesn't have to end now.

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Where it went wrong for England

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Kaveh Solhekol and Rob Dorsett discuss Gareth Southgate's future and whether he will leave his role as England manager.

No team plays perfectly for 90 minutes, it's very rare you get that, but yet again there were lulls in England's performance. You can get away with that against the average teams but, against the crème de la crème, you cannot.

England have bad dips in game, the lulls are too long and drawn out and are happening too often. For 30 minutes against France, it wasn't good enough and we gave them a goal head start. You just cannot afford to do that at this level.

I don't know a goalkeeper who doesn't save France's first goal. Why Jordan Pickford was on his goal line when the ball was 25, 30 yards out I do not know. If Pickford was on the edge of his six-yard box, he probably catches Aurelien Tchouameni's shot.

It was an up-and-down tournament for England. We had three clean sheets in five games, including three on the trot, and scored more goals than any other team without playing particularly well. That is how good this group of England players are.

Losing to France is a hard result to take. I rarely feel gutted when it comes to football matches since I stopped playing, but I was gutted.

As a 54-year-old I thought I'd never see England win the World Cup in my lifetime, but I thought this could have been it.

Fine margins favour France but Kane will come again

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England manager Gareth Southgate says that Harry Kane 'has nothing to reproach himself for' following his late penalty miss which proved decisive as England went out of the World Cup.

It all came down to fine margins. In my wildest dreams I wouldn't have said Harry Kane would put that penalty over the bar, not in my wildest dreams.

If the goalkeeper saves it, fair enough, but he is never putting that over the bar. If I could have picked any player in the world to take a penalty it would have been Kane.

I said after the group stage that if England were going to win the World Cup, then Kane would have to score three or four goals before the tournament ended. Like clockwork, the goals started flowing for Kane in the knockout stages and, if that penalty goes in, he would have gone on to win the Golden Boot.

That's how good Kane is, even after failing to score in the first three games he could have been on course to finish top scorer at the tournament.

He is unbelievable and will come again, make no mistake about it. I can't speak highly enough of him. If I had to pick someone to take a penalty tomorrow morning, even after missing against France, I'm picking Kane.

England's player of the tournament?

England's Harry Maguire reacts at full time
Image: England's Harry Maguire reacts at full time

Plenty of players shone in Qatar, from Jude Bellingham to Bukayo Saka. People might not agree with this but, for me, England's standout player was Harry Maguire.

For someone who hasn't played football and was under a scary amount of pressure heading into the tournament, he performed superbly.

He turned up with so much pressure on his shoulders and I cannot remember him letting England down at any point.

People will point to Olivier Giroud's winner in the France game but the ball from Antoine Griezmann was so good there was nothing anybody in the world could have done anything about.

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