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Southgate ready for ‘beautiful distraction that football can bring’ as England prepare for Euro 2021

10:20 WAT 20/03/2020
Gareth Southgate World Cup
The Three Lions boss is being prevented from working with his senior squad but is looking forward to returning to work after the coronavirus outbreak

England manager Gareth Southgate says gracing the delayed European Championships in 2021 is an option still open to “all of our squad”, with the 49-year-old looking forward to once again embracing the “beautiful distraction that football can bring”.

The Three Lions boss is among those to have seen best-laid plans torn up amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He had been expecting to meet up with his senior squad during an international break in March, with friendly dates due to be taken in against Italy and Denmark.

Those outings would form part of preparations for Euro 2020, but that event has been pushed back by 12 months and the entire football calendar postponed indefinitely.

Southgate is supportive of the plans being put in place by UEFA and sporting authorities around the world, with every effort being made to contain the spread of Covid-19, but a man who has guided England to semi-final berths at the 2018 World Cup and 2019 UEFA Nations League is looking forward to getting back to work.

He said in an open letter posted on the Football Association’s official website: “As we would have been gathering our squad for March fixtures this weekend, it felt an appropriate moment to write a message to all of our supporters.

“For everyone in our country, the primary focus of the present – and the coming months – is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what is clearly the most extreme test that we’ve faced collectively in decades.

“On behalf of all the team and staff, I would like to take this opportunity to send our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones already. Our thoughts are with you and with those who sadly will suffer similarly in the coming period.

“In the way you’ve all come together to support our team, we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many.

So, please continue to follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all.

“We are also conscious of the economic uncertainty affecting so many businesses and, consequently, virtually every family. Coupled with the unique challenges of self-isolation, the loss of routine to normal working and social life, we face real challenges to our mental wellbeing. Our children may feel anxious with uncertainty. It’s not normal for any of us and it’s going to challenge us all.

“Look out for each other. Please don’t suffer alone, and remember that our great country has come through these enormous challenges before – and, together, we will do so again.

“We were due to play next week and to represent you all this summer, but now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre-stage. The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families. They won’t receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.

“When we play again as an England team, it will be at a time when not only our country but the rest of the world as well is on the road to recovery. Hopefully we will be closer to each other than ever, and ready for the beautiful distraction that football can bring.

“To play in a European Championship next summer will still be possible for all of our squad and so we shouldn’t spend another moment thinking about the postponement of the competition.

“I feel sure that, when that moment comes, I will never have been prouder to be the leader.

“Again on behalf of us all, I wish you and your families strength and love to thrive through the challenges ahead.”

The next European Championship is due to be staged in cities across Europe, with England hoping to make their way to the latter stages of another major tournament and benefit from home-field advantage in semi-final and final dates that are set to take place at Wembley.