Everyone loves a winner, but the English public’s embrace of its national teme goes beyond the routine pride in sporting success. For a country bitterly divided by the Brexit referendum as well as by age-old regional and class divides the national team’s political arguments and rancor.
But it is not merely a case of a temporary burst of patriotic fervor papering over the cracks in society.
There is something about this young England team and their articulate manager Gareth Southgate that has created a genuine connection not felt for a generation. Much focus has been on Southgate himself who, in a country where few politicians enjoy much popularity, has received universal approval ratings.
“Southgate is a gentleman to use old-fashioned language. He’s polite and self-depreciating, but-and this is crucial – he is ambitious and successful with it,” Observer columnist Nick Cohen told Reuters.
“He’s a million miles away from the Boris Johnson and Piers Morgans who fill our TV screens. He comes from a better version of England than we are used to seeing,” he said.
Southgate’s approach, refreshingly free of the usual football management cliches, has had an tone, however.
England’s final warm-up game before heading to Russia was held not at London’s Wembley Stadium but at Leeds United’s Elland Road in Yorkshire, with Southgate explicit that he wanted to engage with fans from outside the capital. In a heavily centralised country where so much media focus is on London, the current team is drawn from across the land, with the starting line-up for the 2-0 win over Sweden featuring seven players from the North of England and just Harry Kane born in the capital.