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Why I salute Southgate’s England – and not even through gritted teeth

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Many of the frills and trimmings we associate with an English summer have been on display this month. This year’s contrived controversy at Wimbledon was about smartphone access to the World Cup and the big papers are again commissioning psychologists to explain why a reality television show has come to define the country.

The weather is unseasonably hot instead of unseasonably wet or unseasonably cold. The Tories are disembowelling themselves (and the country) over Europe and the rightwing press remains vigilant about artful migrants trying to beat the system. We’ve even had a ceremonial set piece combining two of those elements the BBC always reaches for when it wants to convey the message that we’re all in it together: the RAF centenary flypast celebrated past military glories and allowed the male royals to dress up as toy soldiers.

If July had also featured the routine evisceration of the national football team returning defeated and wretched from another dismal overseas tournament, the perfect summer would have been complete. No tabloid firing squads greeted Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, though, and his face was not being squashed into the form of a common vegetable on the front page of the Sun.

Instead, Southgate was garlanded and feted. No decent turf accountant will take bets on him being knighted and voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. England’s international football fortunes had fallen so steeply that remaining undefeated by Tunisia, Panama, Colombia and Sweden, while being deservedly beaten by Belgium and Croatia, is deemed........

© The Guardian