Gareth Southgate believes he would be at risk of going “bonkers” if he chose to engage with the noise around England’s performances and the criticism of his selections and has maintained that he will keep doing things his way.
Southgate’s critics have grown louder over the past year, with England winning just one of their last eight games, and his side were booed at full time of Friday’s drab goalless draw with the United States.
That is despite the 52-year-old having led England to the latter stages of the last two major tournaments and remaining top of Group B, with only a point required against Wales on Tuesday to reach the last-16 of the World Cup.
After six years in the job, Southgate has grown used to having his every call questioned, but he has purposely shut himself off from the debate around his decisions while in Qatar in order to not let it influence him.
“I am lucky. I am locked away in a hotel with no telly on. But I don’t need to see it because I know what [the criticism] will be,” he said. “It is a deliberate disengagement. Because if I listen to everything, I either go bonkers or you start to doubt yourself and you listen to too many things.
“I am clear on how we need to be and on decisions we need to make. We won’t get every single decision right and so if there is criticism of certain calls, then so be it.
“But if you had said to me four points from the two games, goal difference where it is, then I knew tonight would be a tough game. We would love to have won it and got the job done but we haven’t so we have to go again.”
When asked whether the criticism affects him, Southgate said: “It is another layer of learning and toughening up. I have had enough experiences over the years to have stood me in good stead for this job.
“I have come here to enjoy this tournament as much as I can and make sure that that is emitted to the players because I think that gives us the best possible chance of doing well.”
The goalless draw against the United States left England on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages, though will have to finish the job against a Wales side who must win handsomely to remain in Qatar.
Southgate was not concerned that, for the first time under his management, England will have to wait until the third game of a group stage before guaranteeing their spot in the next round, having successfully qualified after two games of the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.
“The objective is to qualify,” he said. “You get three games to do it. We have been fortunate in the last two tournaments that we have done it after two. That is very unusual. I kind of know what will be going on. I know what the noise will be but we crack on.
“There are going to be further hurdles ahead but we have got to overcome those. If we are going to get to the stage of the tournament we want to, we have got to show lots of different sides to our character, personality and ability and we have got to come through nights like we will have against Wales.”
Despite a display lacking in attacking urgency against the States, Southgate said that he is not worried about a “wounded” Wales approaching Tuesday’s meeting of two home nations with greater intensity than his side.
“We have got to play well. We are going to play an opponent that is wounded and, like everybody else, desperate to beat the English. We know what that will be,” he said.
“We have got to play an intelligent game and play well. Match the spirit. I would be very disappointed if someone says to me that their players will want it more than ours. I would be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have been for five years.
“We are not quite done. We need a point more to be certain of qualifying. We need three points and if we get that we top the group and I don’t think many groups will be topped with nine points.
“I don’t think in the time I have been in charge that we have fallen short because of pride or emotion and spirit in wearing the shirt. What we have got to do is play well and use the ball well.
“They have got some players who can change games and are good players so we have got to be aware of that but it’s about concentrating on our performance and making sure that we step up again.
“It’s another different type of test. World Cups throw up different tests across the board and we have to makes sure we can cope with the different scenarios put in front of us.”