Gareth Southgate has opened up on the pain he feels from criticism and his fears over the mental health of England players in the face of social media abuse.
The Three Lions boss spoke candidly about the personal challenges his high profile job can pose, particularly when things are not going well on the pitch.
During an in-depth conversation on Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ podcast, Southgate admitted how stung he can be by the naysayers.
Gareth Southgate spoke candidly about the challenges of his job to his mental health
He fears youngsters, such as Mason Mount (right), have no escape from social media criticism
He said: ‘The reality is there are days where it hurts, it bloody hurts. The criticism hurts, the defeats hurt.
‘I think when I was playing, I enjoyed the wins more. You played, it was done. You went and had a couple of beers in the days when we were playing, and we moved on to the next one.
‘Well, I didn’t, I was the poor manager who was at home thinking about the next game straight away, and who was injured, and who he was going to pick, who he was going to leave out.
‘So you definitely spend less time, sadly, I spent less time celebrating the wins. We do try to give ourselves time to enjoy the wins because otherwise, why are we doing it in actual fact? But I’d have to say, I don’t think I always get that balance right even now.’
As a player, Southgate experienced the crushing low of missing his infamous penalty at Euro 96 and had to deal with all the subsequent emotional turmoil that it bestowed on him.
Southgate missed the winning penalty in the semi-finals of Euro 96 held in England
He explained: ‘I felt that very heavily, that I’d let down those that had worked so hard with me.
‘But then of course you have got this broader thing of walking down the street and lads poking their heads out the van and shouting abuse at you, and that’s quite hard to take.
‘You go to every away ground and the fans are chanting, and of course that’s quite an ordeal. And although I wanted to battle against that and prove that I could play against them inside, that’s of course hurting you. And because part of playing for the national team is that you represent all of those people. So when you play for your country, they’re all with you. Now, you can see the feeling of negativity against you, and that’s difficult to take.
‘So it took me a long time. A couple of times I saw sports psychologists, that wasn’t prevalent in our sport at that time. I think it’s an underused resource. I had to kind of find my own way, really. I think some things just take time to heal.’
Southgate still feels as though he does not have the balance of enjoying the wins right
Dealing with that high profile failure on the big stage has better equipped Southgate to empathise with his players as England manager when they are subjected to harsh criticism or abuse on social media.
The 50-year-old continued: ‘I think where it’s changed now for players today is this element of social media and this incredible negativity that exists. If you follow the game on Twitter, for example, through the 90 minutes, goodness, the journey of that from people becoming hero to zero to hero again across just 90 minutes, it’s all so emotive.
He fears there is no escape for young players, who can be crucified by the mob online when they’re still honing their craft.
‘I do worry about young players in particular,’ he added. ‘And that’s not only in football, it’s young people across the board. Home used to be somewhere that was safe. Maybe you were at school and you were bullied. But when you went home, generally speaking, of course, some people had difficult home backgrounds, but generally speaking, if you were bullied at school, you came home, that was safe.
‘Now you can be attacked in your own home through social media. And I do worry about that for young people in that I think there’s a bigger challenge around their mental well-being and looking after them than we’ve ever had before.’
There have been no shortage of Twitter memes on the subject of Gareth Southgate’s alleged favouritism of Mount over Jack Grealish in the England team
The England boss lamented that there is no escape from criticism, even at home
A recent example of one of Southgate’s youngsters taking some flak on social media was Mason Mount.
Some supporters on social media had slammed the decision to give the Chelsea youngster more time in an England shirt than Jack Grealish and the criticism was widespread enough for both Frank Lampard and Southgate to leap to the midfielder’s defence.
Southgate’s side suffered defeats by both Denmark and Belgium before beating Iceland in their latest run of Nations League games.
The manager will lead the national team into next year’s delayed Euro 2020 tournament well equipped to deal with all the mental challenges his team will have to overcome to succeed on the pitch.
The 50-year-old fears for the mental health of his players, especially the younger ones