Rio Ferdinand insists Gareth Southgate has made 'a massive difference'

‘He took England to heights unimaginable’: Rio Ferdinand insists Gareth Southgate has made ‘a massive difference’ to the international set-up and admits players ‘wanted to pull out’ during his Three Lions career

  • Rio Ferdinand has given Gareth Southgate his backing ahead of the World Cup
  • The  ex-defender admitted players in the past did not want to play for England 
  • He believes the current crop of players are ‘clamouring’ to be part of the team 
  • Alan Shearer added that England have ‘improved massively’ since he took over
  • See Sportsmail’s LIVE blog for updates from England’s opening game with Iran
  • And follow the LIVE blog for all the latest stories from the Qatar World Cup 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Rio Ferdinand insists that Gareth Southgate is the right man to lead England to World Cup glory after turning the international side into a place of ‘harmony’ and taking the side to ‘unimaginable’ heights.

Ferdinand – speaking on the BBC as part of their coverage for the World Cup opener against Iran – admitted that in the past players ‘didn’t want’ to play for England, which is something Southgate has turned around since taking over. 

He added that players are now ‘clamouring’ to be a part of his squad, a ‘massive’ difference to how the England set-up had been in the past.  

Rio Ferdinand insisted that players are ‘clamouring’ to be a part of Gareth Southgate’s England

‘He took England to heights unimaginable,’ said the former Manchester United defender. ‘He’s made a place with harmony. 

‘Players want to turn up, back when I was in the team, players would pull out – they didn’t want to be there. Now, these guys are clamouring to get in there, they’re looking for notifications on their phones to see if they’ve got in. 

‘There’s a massive difference. This team have been close to winning a tournament. As a player, not every trophy I won was done was with beautiful football, you want the trophy however you get it done.

The former defender added that in the past players had been reluctant to play for England

Since taking on the role as England manager in 2016, with England having recently been knocked out of Euro 2016 at the hands of minnows Iceland, Southgate has overseen widespread change in the Three Lions set-up. 

Having failed to reach a semifinal of a major tournament since 1996, the current manager has taken the side to the same stage of the 2018 World Cup, as well as reaching the final of the Euros last summer. 

In the last six years, Southgate has shown great faith – often under heavy criticism – to many players, including the likes of under-fire Harry Maguire and ever-present forward Raheem Sterling. 

The Three Lions reached their first semifinal in 22 years in 2018, before losing in the final of last summer’s delayed Euro 2020

He has also transformed the international squad into a place of ‘harmony’, as Ferdinand alluded to, and photos of the squad mingling and forming relationships despite club rivalries became one of the images of last summer’s Euro 2020. 

‘We mustn’t forget – look where England were before Gareth, he took us to a semi final at the World Cup, forget about talk of luck,’ added Alan Shearer.

‘He got us to a final. Things have improved massively, I know we haven’t won for six games – there are good excuses for that, he knows you’re judged in tournaments, Gareth knows he has to do the next step of winning a tournament, it’s very difficult. 

‘We need to open up a bit more – hopefully his selection with four at the back that might be the start of that.’

Alan Shearer insisted that Southgate has brought a dramatic change in fortunes for the side

Only the third manager to take his country to a major semifinal after Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson, Southgate now takes the helm at his third consecutive major trophy for England. 

However, there has been much speculation over his future with the side after Qatar, with England coming into the tournament without a win in competitive football since November 2021. 

Criticism had also been levelled at a perceived negative approach to games, with the former Middlesbrough player and manager often preferring a 3-4-3 formation, despite England’s glut of attacking talent. 

Southgate has come into the Qatar World Cup under increasing pressure after poor form

His substitutions have also been questioned, after a number of big games including the final of Euro 2022 and semifinal of the 2018 World Cup saw the Three Lions boss hesitate to make changes until late in the game. 

But another positive result from a major tournament will surely go far a long way to proving that he is the right man for the job. 

They open their campaign with a clash against Iran on Monday, before facing USA on Friday and Wales on Tuesday November 29 in the final round of fixtures in Group B. 

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