It's a hugely exciting time to be England manager, says boss Gareth Southgate

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Gareth Southgate and England made the World Cup 2018 semi-finals.

Gareth Southgate has been linked to the Manchester United job, but is loving life as England manager and believes the best is yet come.

The 48-year-old oversaw a remarkable 2018 at the Three Lions helm, with his side reaching the World Cup semi-finals before qualifying for the inaugural Nations League finals this summer.

Southgate’s work on and off the field led the Football Writers’ Association to honour the England manager at its tribute evening at the Savoy on Sunday.

The manager has also attracted plenty of plaudits and admiring glances, with the former defender reportedly under consideration to be a permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho as United boss in the summer.

Asked in the wake of such stories whether he feels totally professionally fulfilled by the England job, Southgate told Sky Sports: “I’m the England manager and it’s a privileged position to be in.

“We’ve had the best year for 28 years and we’ve got a semi-final this summer and a European Championship that’s predominantly at Wembley, providing we take care of business to qualify.

“So, it’s a hugely exciting time with the team. I don’t think we’ve progressed as far as we can yet. I think there’s room for us to grow.

“So, I think there’s a lot of importance in life about enjoying what you’re doing, and I am still a young coach.

“I’ve managed less than 200 matches, so, for me, it’s an honour to be in the role I’m in and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Southgate’s first big interview of 2019 came ahead of the FWA’s evening celebrating England’s squad and staff as a whole in central London.

“I’m conscious I’ve received lots of credit over the last couple of months in particular, but as a manager you’re entirely in the hands of your team – both the players and the support team,” the Three Lions boss said.

“I am fortunate to work with really good people in both of those groups – very talented, good characters.

England have reached new highs under Southgate

England have reached new highs under Southgate

“Also, when you’re having tributes, you’re thinking, ‘Well, the job is not done for us yet, there’s a lot for us to go for and a lot of improvement for us to make’.

“It’s really nice to be recognised and equally it shouldn’t just be about me. That’s for sure.”

Among his key components has been England captain and Golden Boot winner Harry Kane, who has been ruled out until March with an ankle issue suffered in Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United last weekend.

“Well, you never want to see a player missing football. It’s important for him and important for his club,” Southgate said.

“He has had a lot of matches over a two-year period now and inevitably at times the body takes care of itself.

“You know, it gives you a sign that it’s ready for a rest and he’ll use that time wisely.

“I am already aware that he’s focused on getting back as quickly as possible and he’s determined to be back helping Tottenham as quickly as possible.

“And I’m sure they and England will get a player that’s refreshed from that little break and stronger again, and hungry to go.”

In his acceptance speech, Southgate highlighted the relationship with the media and how it is vital to a successful England squad.

He said: “I know the relationship with the press has been strained, it was the case when I was a player.

“We were playing with fear, worried about making a mistake, how it would be perceived by the public and how it would be reported. We forgot about what it would feel like if we won.

“It’s a message we tried to get to the players and the feelings relaxed. We felt win, lose or draw we should face the music. Too often (when he was a player) one or two of us had to do the conferences when we lost and when times were good there were several more volunteers.

“On behalf of all of the team, thank you to the Football Writers’ for this tribute, I’m very proud to lead the country and I hope we can continue to make you proud as a team.”

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