For someone born in Watford it is quite remarkable, isn’t it, that Gareth Southgate should have been quite good at football? Perhaps less surprising was the fact that he was chosen by the Gods (known also as the FA) to manage the senior England team, having not messed up the Under-21 team challenge they set him while giggling knowingly over their port and cigars (working men’s behaviour from which their authority became known as the ‘cancer of football’).
Gareth was quite good, not terrible and not brilliant. He lifted League Cups for Villa and Middlesbrough (though the police were able to quickly track him down because of that ubiquitous blue suit) but never did replace Rio ‘scribe of Salford’ Ferdinand at Manchester United as some football prophets – wearing shiny shoes rather than sandals – had foretold.
Many of us remember him, perhaps a little unfairly, for the events of 1996, but everyone – even the saintly consumer of loincloths, Gary Lineker – makes mistakes. Pizza Hut seems to have recovered, although the same could not be said for Stuart Pearce, who is currently doing the electrics at West Ham, or Chris Waddle who became much less noticeable once he lost his hair and started waffling on the radio.
However, Gareth has rather quietly got on with it, hasn’t he? The friendly sermon on the mount that is Ronald Koeman went quite well, given that the food for thought ran out quite early on.
Some are even suggesting that we might have a chance against Panama in the summer and hats off to him if that miracle can be seen to be believed. The Gods have also been telling their Russian counterparts that England’s disciples will follow their leader; and do as they are told at the World Cup – foolishly forgetting that the Amstel river flows through the centre of Amsterdam.
What we do know for certain, apart from death and taxes, is that the River Jordan is located in the Middle East (which isn’t anywhere near Bury St Edmunds; Gareth doesn’t like trick questions). This is far enough away for us to postulate that Gareth could, in fact, be the new Joshua, Hebrew assistant to Moses before leading the Israelites. Joshua is held in respect by Muslims as well as Hebrews so could Gareth be a modern-day healer of tensions as well as a modern-day leader of men?
Thankfully, Gareth wasn’t Sam Allardyce’s assistant, so we don’t have to worry about who Moses was (although Sol Campbell has apparently applied for the position on the grounds of being one of history’s greatest orators).
Joshua himself might have updated one of his famous quotes thus:
“Thus, the sons of England did as Gareth commanded, and took up twelve stones (never forget the benefits of substitution) from the middle of the Jordan, and they carried them on to the pitch where the feet of the priests (FIFA observers) were standing.”
Suitably stoned, we can only rely on hearsay at this point, but Gareth’s tactics certainly seem to have worked if word-of-mouth accounts of players who were allegedly still awake at the time are true:
Gareth: “Let a white man’s Boris Johnson be a black man’s Bob Marley and see how they like the 3-5-2 beatings.”
Raheem: “Give us some love.”
Gareth: “And lo, though Wayne, Chris and Gary be cast out into the wilderness of Premier League losers, let them be assured that they will find their true rewards at the bank.”
Raheem: “Give them some love.”
Gareth: “Are we not composed and in control of our destiny? I say to you that we have to be intelligent about this. Crossing a river is not the same as scaling a mountain.”
Jordan H (not really sure why he makes an appearance but provided a play on names): “Haway. There were eleven lads out there, all wanting to show what they could do, what with the summer transfer window coming and all.”
Jordan P: “Haway. It was just nice as a mackem to see a goal and not be the one conceding it.”
Raheem: “Enjoy the moment, man. At the end of the day, we all know what will happen. Peace, Positivity and, er, I need another P.”
‘Joshua’ is a rendering of the Hebrew language “Yehoshua”, which means ‘Yahweh is salvation.’ So, Gareth, until we all drown our sorrows once more, yah weh is good enough for football sinners everywhere.