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Southgate tells players to ditch the booze and prove just how good they can be

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Gareth Southgate told his England players yesterday that they had to choose between drinking and reaching the top. At his unveiling as permanent England manager, Southgate said that drinking heavily in the public eye, as Wayne Rooney did last month, was "not intelligent", and that players had to ask themselves "how good they want to be".

During his four-game interim spell Southgate decided to end the policy of nights off on international duty after Rooney's infamous drinking session at the Grove Hotel. Southgate repeated at Wembley yesterday that England players could not drink heavily and perform well, and said that if they chose the former they were risking losing their places.

While Southgate did not want to go into detail on the Rooney case, he denied that he ever told his captain to go to bed on the Saturday night in question. But he did say how thoughtless he thought it was to drink heavily in public. "We spend most of our time trying to relieve pressure," Southgate said. "So if we put ourselves in positions where we increase that pressure, it is not intelligent."

Southgate denied that he was going to be 'Draconian' in his approach, and said that "there cannot be a regime where there is no down-time". But he said that clear choices had to be made between healthy and unhealthy options, implying the latter would have consequences.

"There has got to be lines of what is acceptable and what isn't," Southgate said.

"If you look at top sports teams like the All Blacks, the players are involved in that, and have ownership and accountability. And if they want to be top, top players, then they have got to recognize what are the things that are going to help us achieve that, and what are the things that are going to detract from that."

For Southgate everything revolves around performance, and he said that footballing questions were irrelevant if the players were not looking after themselves in their spare time.

"The key is that we always have to be thinking about performance," he said. "Come on, how good do we want to be? What do we want to be as we go forward? Every athlete has that decision to make. We've got good competition for places."

England have dramatically underperformed at at least the last two international tournaments they have played in, and arguably the last four.

Southgate said that they could not hope to compete with Spain, Germany and Italy if they were behaving unprofessionally.

"The culture we create, the environment that we want to have, has got to be one of excellence," Southgate said. "We've got to strive to be the best we can be. "The rest of the world aren't doing that. So we are competing in a different landscape and we have to be as professional and well-prepared as everybody else before we even start looking at how good we are technically or tactically."

While for Southgate the Rooney issue is settled, he did deny that he ever told Rooney to go to bed back on 12 November. "The only person I've told to go to bed, in the last few years, is my son, and he's never too fussed about that discussion by the way either," Southgate said.

"The only time I saw Wayne was at about 10.30 that night, I was watching a video of Spain, which is a usual Saturday night for me. And he popped his head through the door to see what we were doing as a group of coaches."

FA chief executive Martin Glenn was sat alongside Southgate and detailed the process Southgate had gone through to get the job. Glenn revealed that Southgate had been psychologically evaluated before being given the role, as well as subject to "extensive background checks".

"Gareth has talked about [the importance of] thinking correctly under pressure," Glenn said.

"It's really important for the England team and is important for anyone in what is a high pressure role. So we had Gareth independently assessed for mental strengths and how he takes decisions.

"We went to a third party, as is normal in sport, through questionnaires, that gave that opinion. We went through the psychological assessments together in terms of what was useful, or what we thought was important. That was a separate data set." The evaluation was believed to have been carried out by Lane4, the sports performance group set up by former Olympic swimmer Adrian Moorhouse. "

Responding to suggestions that it was a gentle process, Glenn insisted how hard it had been.

"It was reported as a 'fire-side chat' but it was anything but," he said.

"It was three hours - Howard Wilkinson, Graeme Le Saux, the chairman (Greg Clarke), me and Dan Ashworth. It started off with a review of the last four games, what Gareth has learnt.

"There was some pretty feisty opinions from the more technical people in the room about some things. That was a good example of seeing Gareth's powers of analysis stand up to scrutiny."


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