The catastrophe that was to become the new Wembley and internal battles for power meant some of these things took longer to get off the ground than they should have done.
But the appointment of Dan Ashworth and the team he has built have been fantastic at getting things back on track – and now we are seeing the benefits. Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but our recent successes in men’s and women’s international football tournaments suggest we are getting there.
We’re now seeing players who have been schooled in a process and culture from the age of 15. A culture that creates successful international football players, coaches and teams who have what it takes to cope with and succeed in the tournament environment.
They’re being given the chance to get accustomed to the demands of international football. So, when they join an international set-up, they are coming to a place they’re familiar with.
And when I say ‘place’, I mean a place in their heads.
If they’ve played in the Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-21s, all the messages they’ve received are consistent. It’s like anything: if you say you want to be a doctor, they don’t throw you on the ward straight away. You work your way up, learning what it is that you’re supposed to be and do, and how to deal with it.
“I was part of the panel that chose Gareth Southgate. For me, he was potentially head and shoulders above any of the other contenders”
You might look at this England team and think that, individually, it’s perhaps not as good as some we’ve had in the past. But in terms of their ability to win games, I think it’s certainly more consistent, performance-wise. And they will continue to improve.
A huge part of that is having a manager who has learned from, understood and supported the messages.
The message that the international game is different to the club game; that it requires different qualities of you. That we’re here to get you to understand that, and to recognise that the team will become more successful if we keep the faith.
We’re here to not make some of the mistakes that have been made in the past.
I was part of the panel that chose Gareth Southgate to fulfil that role. For me, he was potentially head and shoulders above any of the other contenders also touted at the time.
Of course, you have to go through a selection process, but if I’d been a despot I’d have said: “We’re wasting our time.” I couldn’t see how it could be anyone else.