GARETH Southgate is on the cusp of glory with England.

And ahead of the tomorrow’s Euro 2020 final with Italy, the Three Lions boss showed maturity way beyond his years as he took his first steps in the professional game, according to Colchester United stalwart Brian Owen.

Owen was a physiotherapist at Crystal Palace back in the late 1980s at the same time as Southgate was emerging, as a promising youngster.

The highly-respected Owen, now with six decades of football experience under his belt as a player, coach, scout and physio, saw at first hand the impressive way in which Southgate interacted with his older peers at the time at Selhurst Park - and insists he is not surprised at how well the former defender has done.

Owen said: “Gareth has always had a very good outlook.

"Even as a young lad he was very, very mature – it stood out because it was like talking to a senior pro.

“There are two players who I looked at as teenagers who I thought had an old head, on young shoulders.

“One was Steve Perryman and the other was Gareth Southgate.

“Alan Smith was Gareth’s coach and he absolutely adored him and that made you think ‘this lad’s going to be good’.

“He’s done a lot of work behind the scenes and studied lots of different things.

“He’s got a good coach with him and he’s got a good staff with him – he’s been quite astute with that.

“You trust them; they’re experienced and they’re good people.

“It’s great as a manager to have that and you need that trust and knowledge that they bring to the table.

“Gareth has that ability to communicate with people.

“He doesn’t forget people and he treats everyone with respect and I think people respect the way he is, because he’s a lovely person.

“Even the lads out of the team, they all respect him – he’s got a good manner about him.

“Gareth will make decisions; I think he’s studied psychology and he’s gone to other sports and studied how they do things.

“He’s got a good team behind him and he’s quite confident in what he’s doing.

“When you’re a politician or you’re England manager, there’s going to be 50 per cent with you and 50 per cent against you.

“All you can do is do what you think is right.

“You’re going to get criticised and you’ve just got to take it on the chin – that’s a big thing, as a manager.

“Don’t be surprised if you’re criticised, because that’s part and parcel of the game."


Owen, 76, pictured above at Layer Road, is the ideal person to talk to about Southgate and England, given his ample experience with the FA and the national team.

He has known every England manager since Sir Alf Ramsey apart from Fabio Capello, has travelled with the senior England squad and worked with the England youth team for a number of years.

“Because I was a physio and a coach, I was working with England youth and under-21s and B and did two with the A team," said Owen, who has been player, coach, physio and scout at Colchester.

"I was watching the best coaches work.

“It was an experience you couldn’t write down – it was fantastic.

“I worked for the FA in the seventies and early eighties and I saw the top, top coaches work.

“I worked with Bobby Robson, Don Howe, Ron Greenwood and Howard Wilkinson and all of these top people and how we didn’t win anything, I don’t know.

“I felt sorry for Graham Taylor, because he inherited a poor group.

“I also worked with Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables.

“Terry should have had that job for a lot of years and I’d have been quite happy for Glenn Hoddle to have it longer too, because they’re both good thinking coaches."


Applause - Gareth Southgate following England's semi-final win over Denmark at Wembley Picture: CATHERINE IVILL/POOL PHOTO VIA AP

Owen has been enjoying watching Euro 2020 - and is especially pleased to see England performing so well.

“It’s fantastic and I think it’s picked everyone up really," said the former Watford, Wolves and Colchester winger.

“It’s been a joy after the year we’ve had and it’s given everyone a boost.

“We’ve certainly got a bright bunch of lads at the moment.

“It’s hard early on in tournaments, because you’re nervous and frightened of making mistakes and things like that.

“The better teams grow into tournaments and you’re gradually seeing stuff now.

“Harry (Kane) wasn’t fit when he came into the tournament and he needed a few games to get going, which is now.

“Sterling has been fantastic and the other lads have all done well, when they’ve come in.

“You need everyone to be contributing, especially in a tournament like this.

“He’s been lucky to have (Harry) Maguire back when he did, because for me he’s a massive influence, as too are people like (Jordan) Henderson.

“Having those people and those characters in the team especially in the difficult games is massive."

Southgate and his England players will be aiming to secure their first trophy for 55 years when they take on Italy tomorrow.

Owen believes the Three Lions can edge it at Wembley and taste glory.

He added: “It’s going to be tight and I don’t think there’ll be a lot of goals in it but you never know in football!

“But I think it will be the odd goal.

“If we play them ten times, I think we might beat them four or five, they might beat us two or three and we might draw a few.

“I think we’ve got the edge but it’s what happens on the day.

“I think the pace of Sterling against Chiellini will be a big factor and I don’t think the two full-backs are the greatest – I think that’s where we’re going to win the game.

“But they have got good forwards who can score goals and Chiesa is looking fantastic.

“I always think of odds and because they haven’t lost in 30-odd games, I think they’re due a defeat – that’s how I see it.

“They’ve had a great run but they were lucky in the Spain game and that gives me a bit of hope that we can just do it.

“They’ve got some quality players and they can score a goal but I think we have a team that can hurt them, that’s for sure."