Gareth Southgate won’t see his England players again until the week before the Qatar World Cup

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As Gareth Southgate picked over the bones of another less than satisfactory week in a Wembley corridor late on Monday night, Phil Foden passed behind him. Tapping his manager on the shoulder, a handshake and a hug followed.

For the England manager and his players, that’s it for now. Goodbye. The next time they see each other will be in the third week of November, six days before the start of the World Cup.

It is a quite unusual situation. Despite the much-needed fillip provided by England’s comeback against Germany, Southgate knows and admits his players are in need of something to restore confidence whittled away by six games without a win, stretching back to the end of last season.

Gareth Southgate will not see his England players again before the Qatar World Cup this winter

Gareth Southgate will not see his England players again before the Qatar World Cup this winter

Equally, he cannot work with them or even see them as he looks to put right what is wrong. It is a conundrum to which there is not necessarily an answer.

‘I think the players have been through a lot and the psychology of it all is fascinating for us at the moment,’ said Southgate.

‘There are different expectations and different levels of experience in the group.

‘Some young ones are actually handling it brilliantly but there are some who are needing help and guidance. They will be thinking, “What is this?”

‘We have talked about how the shirt feels and they are experiencing for the first time a little bit of what some of the older ones have been through in the past. What we face now is unique to us compared to any other sport internationally.

Southgate saw his side come from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 against Germany on Monday evening

Southgate saw his side come from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 against Germany on Monday evening

Harry Kane had scored emphatically from the penalty spot to give the Three Lions the lead

Harry Kane had scored emphatically from the penalty spot to give the Three Lions the lead

‘The rugby players get eight weeks together just for the Six Nations. The cricketers are together all year on central contracts. This is the difference.

‘This tournament is unique. We don’t get the four weeks we had ahead of the World Cup in Russia. But we have to adapt better than anybody else.’

With 20 minutes left on Monday night against a German team who have also been struggling, England were pretty much on their knees. Two goals down and facing the kind of final-whistle reception we have not heard at Wembley for some time.

From there, 3-3 represented one of international football’s great get-out-of-jail moments.

Southgate is expected to name his 26-man squad for the tournament on October 21

Southgate is expected to name his 26-man squad for the tournament on October 21

England’s comeback — from 0-2 to 3-2 in 12 minutes — came on the back of the kind of quick, incisive attacking football we had not seen from Southgate’s team since their run to the final of last summer’s European Championship.

That it took a desperate match situation to provoke it is troubling, but at least we know it’s still there somewhere, buried beneath all the uncertainty and angst that was once such a staple part of playing for England.

 

Southgate’s challenge now is to bottle the adrenaline generated by that brief interlude and release it again in November.

‘That (20 minutes) is what we want, of course,’ he said.

‘That’s the style and type of play we know they are capable of. We have to keep instilling the belief and the confidence in them to be able to do it.

England are without a win in six games, but finally broke their goal drought on Monday

England are without a win in six games, but finally broke their goal drought on Monday

‘I think it’s a big step forward. Not everything was wrong before this game and not everything is right now.

‘There are some big steps we have got to take but we needed to see character and how they would deal with adversity and you can only take a step at a time.

‘We have had a couple of really tough experiences and you don’t necessarily go and win the next game 4-0 against a top-level opponent.

‘You have to take small steps. They will take some belief from tonight and they have to go on building and building and building.’

Southgate had hoped at one stage to at least arrange some kind of meeting with his prospective 26-man squad between now and the World Cup but has conceded defeat on that.

England's players, including Phil Foden, will now spend a period of time with their club sides

England’s players, including Phil Foden, will now spend a period of time with their club sides

‘No there just isn’t going to be time,’ he said.

‘They are going to have too many matches and we have to respect what they are doing with their clubs. We have got a lot of analysis of the opposition to do. And of course we need to monitor our players as well as we possibly can.

‘We always look to find out absolutely everything about them and there will be a lot of liaison with the clubs on how they are physically and what’s going on. So we are not short of stuff to be getting on with.’

England’s players face eight rounds of Premier League fixtures between now and the World Cup. There are four Champions League games to be played for many of them, too.

Normally Southgate would worry about the workload but possibly not this time. There are a number of his players who need to find some form and others — such as goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and midfielder Kalvin Phillips — who will endeavour to recover from injuries.

There will be phoney war before this World Cup. It is an eight-day turnaround ahead of England’s opening match against Iran. Southgate is well aware of the problems inherent in this.

His only consolation — apart from his team’s impressive recent tournament record — is that there are 32 teams in the tournament and, for the vast majority, it will be exactly the same.

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