Gareth Southgate spoke of staving off invasions and world-beating inventions as he recalled England’s past before challenging his players to add to that history by beating Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
The Three Lions boss will lead the nation into their first major tournament final in 55 years at Wembley on Sunday.
Southgate has already talked of the pride he and his players will have at representing England in such a showpiece event but with only the World Cup-winning side of 1966 to draw inspiration from, Southgate instead looked to examples away from the pitch.
“I think there are historic things that we should be proud of,” he said.
“We’ve had unbelievable inventions in this country. We’ve had standards of decency, I suppose, that would be expected.
“At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.
“But also people have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back. You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that.
“I never mentioned that to the players but I know that’s part of what that story was. There is an intertwining of all those things, that generations of… respect for our elders and just values I think we should have.
“We have so many things here that we should be proud of that we probably underestimate that.”
Southgate has become a figurehead for not only his team but the nation’s society in recent months.
The 50-year-old has supported his players in taking the knee in an anti-racism stance and knows how much England being successful on the pitch has united the country at a difficult time.
“I can only say that the way I try to lead is to be authentic to myself,” he replied when asked if the nation’s respect for him sat well.
“I’ve been able to be more bullish I suppose about standing up for those principles over the last couple of years, because I recognise the position I’m in and the influence I can have in a positive way.
“That would be the pleasing thing, but I hope I’ve always respected the fact that the position carries some weight and not abused that by going into areas that I shouldn’t, but I’ve felt there are positive things that we could help to change or influence in society.
“I couldn’t say this was always the vision, but the longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team.
“What hit me coming back from Russia (the 2018 World Cup) were families coming up to me, people coming up to me on the street from all backgrounds of our country and saying they felt they could go to a game now and not be abused at the stadium, connect with the team.
“They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is. We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.”
Southgate revealed he received plenty of well-wishes following Wednesday’s 2-1 semi-final win over Denmark
But, while some of the messages suggested the team had achieved enough just reaching the final, Southgate challenged his players to decide what colour medal they want to be hanging around their neck at full-time on Sunday.
“I know it won’t be enough for me and for the rest of the staff and for the players if we don’t win it now,” he added.
“You get lovely messages that say ‘whatever happens now, blah blah blah blah’ but that won’t be how it will be on Monday. We’ve got to get it right.
“We can win it, but we’ve got to get it spot on to win it.
“I said to the players yesterday, people are respecting how they’ve been and that they’ve represented the country in the right way but now they have a choice of what colour medal.
“Whatever happens now, they’re all going to take a medal which has not happened for decades to an England group and they deserve it. They’ve been an absolute pleasure to work with and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“We know the size of the challenge but what a brilliant challenge for us to have and what a brilliant opportunity for the players to write one more piece of history.”
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