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.
“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.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic said winning the title for Los Angeles Galaxy is his priority now.
The 37-year-old forward said he is staying with the Major League Soccer side for the 2019 campaign as he feels he has unfinished business there after Galaxy ended one point off a playoff spot in Ibrahimovic’s first MLS campaign after he moved to USA.
Ibrahimovic has won a title in each team he has ever played for as a professional player.
“The way I ended last season, the way we ended was not a normal situation for me. Because normally where I go I win, and I won wherever I went and I didn’t succeed with that here. That for me was not okay,” Ibrahimovic said.
“The fans deserve more for what they’ve done all season. Not even getting to the playoffs was something new for me. It was catastrophic not to make the playoffs.”
Philippines under former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson face a must-win game against Kyrgyzstan in their final Group C match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on Wednesday.
The Azkals, as Philippines football team is known, lost their first two matches to South Korea and China – results that Eriksson feel were not true reflection of how his team played.
Now, Eriksson is hoping his team can score their first goal of the tournament and also win against Kyrgyzstan and stand a chance to advance to the knockout stages as one of the best third placed team.
Both Philippines and Kyrgyzstan are rookie teams in the tournament and are expected to feel the pressure in what will be a tight game at Rashid Stadium in Dubai.