In the weeks and months following the nightmare Euro 1996 penalty miss by Gareth Southgate, there were concerns the experience could scar his career forever.
The crestfallen moment in which the then-25-year-old defender seemed to try and swallow the nation’s disappointment is arguably more memorable than Gazza’s goal against Scotland or England’s routing of Holland.
But despite worries that semi-final exit against Germany could define his career, the England manager has demonstrated how to turn a major setback into major motivation.
Penalty pressure on Gareth Southgate
Gareth, now 50, has written and spoken about how everyone had a view on his penalty in the weeks following.
Even his mum reportedly asked him why he hadn’t just belted the ball at the German goal.
But even as the sting of failure subsided – and his personal disappointment became material for a Pizza Hut advert – it seems Gareth may have always hoped of erasing the humiliation entirely.
Indeed, Gareth has subsequently reflected on how that football low has helped him deal with pressure and “made me a stronger person”.
In the years following his penalty miss, Gareth admitted to feeling a sense of ‘unfinished business’. Still a player at the time, he said it was “driving me on more”.
He also noted how he wished to convert any frustration into results.
I’m not looking for sympathy and people’s good wishes.
Gareth told the BBC: “It would be fabulous to put that behind me in some way by doing something positive. I’m not looking for sympathy and people’s good wishes, I want to help us win a major championship.”
Erasing bad memories
Always diplomatic and a mature communicator, Gareth also learned how to handle constant enquiries about his most-watched kick while still lacing up the boots.
He lightheartedly responded to a question about whether he had erased the memory of the 1996 penalty a few year afterwards: “I have. But no one else has.”
However, what Gareth’s approach may indicate is how successful he is at absorbing pressure. This allows his players to get on and do what they’re best at.
Indeed, before the recent Euro 2020 win that set up England’s quarter final match against Ukraine, Gareth dismissed any notion that his most notable previous clash with Germany would have any bearing on the team’s future.
He told the BBC: “Games from 40, 50 years ago don’t mean anything. So I haven’t discussed that with them at all.”
Nonetheless, despite some pundits speculating the ‘trauma’ of 1996 may have informed his decision to take the England job after being offered it a second time – and his managerial approach – Gareth has always made it clear the team comes first.
He said over 20 years ago: “I’m wise enough to know the important thing isn’t me laying a ghost to rest. It’s the team going through.
“And probably the best thing for the team is for me to stay well out of the way!”
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