Gareth Southgate in positive mood over new England contract talks | England

Gareth Southgate has raised expectations that he will extend his England contract by saying there are few opportunities in club management currently and admitting it would be difficult to part with such a talented group of players.

Southgate’s £3m-a-year deal runs out after the 2022 World Cup and he is ready to sign a two-year extension. The England manager remains invested in a job he started in 2016 and he spoke glowingly about the talent at his disposal after his team to all intents sealed their place in Qatar by beating Albania 5-0 at Wembley on Friday.

“As a manager you want to work with good players,” Southgate said. “You can challenge them in a different way. There aren’t a huge number of jobs out there and being the manager of England is a massive privilege, so of course I take that responsibility really responsibly. It means a lot to me to be in the position I am.”

A contract extension would see Southgate, who could double his money if he commits his future to England, lead the side into Euro 2024. The 51-year-old has been keen to delay negotiations with the Football Association until after qualification for the World Cup is secure but he wants to stay and there has been progress in private.

Harry Kane completes his hat-trick for England against Albania
Harry Kane completes his hat-trick for England against Albania. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer

Southgate, whose future has been uncertain since England’s run to the final of Euro 2020, is excited about his squad’s potential. England need only a point from their final qualifier in Group I, away to San Marino on Monday, and Southgate feels they are still getting better. “We’ve shown over the last couple of years that we’ve got some really good strength in depth,” he said. “I think that There is still a long way to go and room for improvement.

“Even tonight we played exceptionally well in the first half but gave away three balls that could have ended up in the back of our net. One of them, Jordan Pickford had to make an excellent save at 1-0. We’ve got to keep evolving and keep improving.

“There is depth, but we’ve always had depth in this country. We’ve always had good players. I’m not convinced that our players are better than the team in 2004 or 2006 and that sort of period.. I’m not certain we’re better than ’96 or ’98 when I played.

“But this group have got a lot of potential and have really blended well as a team. They have formed a very strong bond and the way they have worked for each other has produced some really good performances and exceptional results.”

Conor Gallagher has been handed his his first senior call-up against San Marino, while Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Luke Shaw will not travel, the Football Association has announced. Gallagher has impressed at Crystal Palace, on loan from Chelsea. Emile Smith Rowe was called up from the under-21s after withdrawals and made his debut as a substitute against Albania on Friday.

England have made huge strides under Southgate, who led them to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. They have become better on the ball and are comfortable in a number of systems. Southgate switched to a 3-4-3 formation against Albania, who were demolished by England’s attack in the first half, and he was delighted with Reece James’s ability to drift into midfield from his starting position at right wing-back.

“Reece did that really well against Denmark in one of his first games but then we ended up going down to 10 men and we had to change it,” he said. “But we know he’s a player who can do that. Against Andorra here he played in the middle of midfield for 20 minutes and was very comfortable.

“I saw him do the same for Chelsea at Aston Villa last season. Reece is just a very, very talented footballer. Excellent with the ball and strong without it. His performance was really top level. His last games for us were a little bit quiet and I think we just had to remind him of the belief we’ve got in him. I think he’s got everything. He’s already a top player but he can be anything that he wants.”

Southgate went on to discuss the tight buildup to the World Cup. The 2022-23 Premier League season will start on 6 August and pause after the weekend of 12-13 November for the Qatar tournament, which is due to commence on 21 November.

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“What’s important is that there is a break at the end of this season,” Southgate said. “Next season is unique. Normally we go into tournaments picking up the pieces at the end of a season but this will be during the season. The unknown is what will happen with the tight turnaround after the last league matches. Sometimes when you pick up injuries before summer tournaments you can have a few weeks to get things right.

“That won’t be possible for any of the countries that qualify, so everybody is going to have to select their squad in a very short period of time. It is going to be key to get those decisions right.”

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