Gareth Southgate, PR extraordinaire

If anyone can bring a workable Brexit home, it's the England manager.

Gareth Southgate would enhance the reputation of anyone he's standing next to, argues Geoff Duggan
Gareth Southgate would enhance the reputation of anyone he's standing next to, argues Geoff Duggan

The past few weeks have been full of surprises. The anonymity of Argentina's talisman Lionel Messi. Germany's ungracious exit. Russia's Stakhanovite stifling of Spain. Maradona being... Maradona.

Yet perhaps the greatest, and most welcome, surprise has been the waistcoat’s return to fashion. Gareth Southgate’s M&S tailored signature piece has become a sensation.

Its popularity symbolises the remarkable PR campaign of Gareth Southgate, a man who has unexpectedly and singlehandedly helped England rediscover its footballing mojo and – temporarily at least – unite a nation divided following the Brexit referendum.

Read next: Top of the Month - Southgate and England play a blinder in the press room

The fawning headlines and hashtags are all the more impressive when you consider what’s come before.

The England team’s communications efforts have appeared cursed ever since Glenn Hoddle ranted about reincarnation – a series of calamities that has fed a media hungry to cut footballers down to size.

Memorable shambles include Baden-Baden in 2006, when England’s WAGS were dubbed ‘hooligans with credit cards’ by the Mail on Sunday after three weeks of drinking, shopping and drinking.

More recently, who will forget the one-match tenure of Sam Allardyce? A man sacked after an undercover journalist got him over-sharing after several pints of wine.

Let’s not even discuss Sven.

For England's press team, the leadership of Gareth Southgate offers a welcome break from the past.

The manager has successfully managed expectations, protecting his players from scrutiny and alleviating pressure on them.

In a world of galactico egos he comes across not only as tactically smart but also down to earth, likeable and kind, something not always found in managers (cough cough, Jose Mourinho).

None of this should come as a surprise; for years Southgate has taken a considered and cerebral approach to football focused on youth development and sports psychology.

On the pitch, Southgate’s influence was evident when the players coolly and calmly slotted their penalties past Colombia’s David Ospina.

Previous generations have frozen, choked by a fear of failure as players envisaged the public savagery that follows a scuffed spot kick.

Off the pitch, Southgate’s charges have become loved.

Through insightful interviews and inventive social media, the players come across engaging, fun and, despite their millions, relatable. Compare this to the personality-free 'Golden Generation'.

Yet it is Southgate who has truly been the face of England’s tournament.

If one image comes to define this World Cup, it could well be Southgate comforting a distraught Colombian Mateus Uribe after his penalty miss.

Southgate, a man who became public enemy number one after missing against Germany in Euro 1996, showed rare class, helping someone during intense mental anguish and despair.

Don’t be surprised to see him with one arm around Theresa May next time she leaves Cabinet.

In fact, let’s just let him lead the whole show. First the World Cup, next Number 10. If anyone can bring a workable Brexit home, it’s Gareth Southgate.

Geoff Duggan is a partner at Pagefield

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