WHEN Gareth Southgate presided over a thumping England under-21 victory over Norway at the JobServe Community Stadium a little under five years ago, it represented the closure of one chapter and the beginning of another.

With the newly-installed England senior boss Sam Allardyce and his assistant Sammie Lee sitting in the West Stand watching the Young Lions' 6-1 triumph on that night in Colchester on September 6, 2016, few would have predicted that just a few weeks later, there would be a change at the very top and that Southgate would be leading the national team.

Not that Southgate had done a bad job as under-21 boss; far from it.

But having been appointed only a few weeks earlier, Allardyce's reign was still in its embryonic stage.

No-one would have predicted the chain of events that unfolded, in the days that followed.

Following allegations of malpractice, Allardyce left his role with England three weeks after that game at Colchester and Southgate was placed in temporary charge of the senior team.

The Young Lions' European Championship qualifier against Norway, which had been remembered chiefly for Marcus Rashford's superb hat-trick on his England under-21 debut, proved to be Southgate's 37th and final game in charge of the youngsters.


After taking temporary charge of the senior team, he was appointed as England's permanent manager on a four-year deal, less than two months later. Since then, Southgate has gone from strength to strength.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Southgate's first major tournament as England's boss, he led them to the semi-finals; only an extra-time defeat to Croatia prevented them from reaching the final.

The following year, Southgate managed England to third place in the UEFA Nations League, after another semi-final loss.

Tonight, both Southgate and England will attempt to go one better when they strive to reach the final of Euro 2020.

Denmark stand in the way of them booking a showpiece date with Italy at Wembley Stadium, on Sunday evening.

Whatever happens this evening, Southgate has once again presided over an impressive tournament showing by England, one that has thrilled the nation.

Who would have thought that that relatively routine night in Colchester back in September, 2016 proved something of a landmark moment for Southgate and his England career.