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England’s journey to the World Cup semi-finals may have seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but the FA is demanding it becomes the new normality.
As he starts looking seriously at hosting the 2030 tournament, FA chief executive Martin Glenn could not have been more delighted with the Russian campaign orchestrated by “brilliant” manager Gareth Southgate.
But in his post-finals debrief, Glenn reminded the country that the Three Lions were not ultimately successful this summer and insisted he wants to make reaching the last four of tournaments a regular occurrence not an exciting novelty.
He said: “We’ve made real progress, but we haven’t had success.
“Two years ago, we sat down with Gareth and said, ‘Where do we want to be?’
“We want to be a top-four team. So that in just about every tournament you go to, you should be aspiring to get into the semi-finals. And we’re still a way short of that. The team performed better than the sum of its parts [in Russia].
“Real progress is beating Spain more regularly, the Germanys and the Frances. We know there is still plenty of work to do.”
That is why Glenn is prepared to give a new contract to Southgate and to keep investing in the costly set-up at St George’s Park, along with the experts who form part of a sprawling managerial team.
Glenn, while lauding Southgate lavishly, was also keen to stress how he benefits from FA investment in backroom personnel.
He said: “I doubt there is any other international manager with the size of support staff that Gareth has got and we will carry on investing in it.
“We should have performed consistently better over the last 20 years… we will perform consistently better over the next 20 years because of the things we are doing.”
And if Southgate remains at the helm for a good number of those years, Glenn will be happy.
He added: “We had a really good World Cup and the great thing about the World Cup was we over-performed, considering the level of experience we had. And that’s a great testament to Gareth and the other members of the team.
“Gareth has really blossomed, he was absolutely fantastic in pressure situations. He is the definition of the modern manager we want. He’ll be the first to say he has benefited from, frankly, an expensive but world-class support team… but he has been brilliant.
“Gareth is on a journey, he has loved the World Cup and he’s built his own belief we can go further.”
A belief shared by the FA, whose message now the World Cup dust has settled is clear.
What happened in Russia was the beginning of a new England project, not the end, not the missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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