England’s 1966 hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst has compared Gareth Southgate to World Cup-winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey.
Current boss Southgate has a chance emulate Ramsey and lead the nation to a major trophy triumph on Sunday as they take on Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
It will be England’s first appearance in a major men’s final since Ramsey’s side were crowned world champions, with a treble from Hurst against West Germany, 55 years ago.
Hurst is in no doubt of the impact Southgate has had on the team.
He told the PA news agency: “You have got to start with Gareth Southgate because, as in our time Sir Alf Ramsey was instrumental then and deserved a lot of the credit, Gareth does today.
“He is honing them into a team and got them mentally and physically fit. We’re all very proud of them. It has been a fantastic amount of games (won) so far.”
Hurst, 79, has been impressed by the way Southgate has dealt with pressure and stuck to his plans throughout the tournament despite calls for him to make changes.
He said: “My old boss was once asked, when he was in charge, Ron Greenwood, who do you report to.
“He meant within the FA. He said, ‘I actually report to the whole country’. And the press is 1,000 times bigger today.
“You are resisting the pressure from the press and the media to make the changes. He hasn’t done so because he has been completely and utterly focused on what he thinks is the right thing to do and he has been proved right.
“That does take some doing when you are under pressure from a gigantic media every single hour of every single day. That proves how strong and how good he is. His leadership and management have been fantastic.”
I always felt right from the beginning the team that beat Italy would win it.Sir Geoff Hurst
Hurst believes England have a good chance of prevailing at Wembley but anticipates a tight contest, unlike the high-scoring affair of 1966, and would be surprised if anyone matches his hat-trick heroics.
He said: “What are our chances? Good. We have got a very good team, we’ve been doing very well, well managed, and right from the start I’ve felt we had a good bunch of players, a lot of very good young players.
“I always felt we had a chance and that hasn’t changed. I always felt right from the beginning the team that beat Italy would win it because they are very strong as well.
“I think the best two teams are in the final. (Playing) against a great country in Italy, and a great footballing nation, it should be a great final.
“I predict it is going to be a very tight game between two fantastic teams. I can’t see a a 4-2 scoreline like we saw in 66. That would be a big shock really.
“You can’t see either team conceding that amount of goals. It will be very hard – as it’s proved for the last 55 years – for a player to score three. But I’ve had a great record and someone’s got to do it (one day).
“But it’s not about an individual scoring three. It is just about, as it has been right the way through, a great team winning.”