THE STEPHEN CONSTANTINE COLUMN: SOUTHGATE’S EURO 2020 DESTINY AND WHY POSTECOGLOU DESERVES THE JOB AT CELTIC
- Courage of a coach to ignore media pressure and stick to his beliefs with England selection
- Why Sterling has repaid his manager’s faith in him and been Southgate’s Man of the Tournament
- Inside the midfield dilemma of fielding Rice and Phillips in the same team and why you can’t argue with the results
- Why Chiellini is the latest in a storied heritage of master Italian defenders
- The Final Verdict: Our man’s Wembley prediction, the winners - and the scoreline!
THE only Englishman to have bossed SIX national teams was the only man we could ask to pen Sport Careers Agency's exclusive Euro 2020 Finals column.
Stephen Constantine has coached the likes of India, Nepal and Sudan but he remains the proudest of Englishmen ahead of today's Final clash with Italy at Wembley.
Sport Careers Agency asked one of our most intriguing clients for his exclusive verdict on the big one.
First, though, we got updated with Stephen on his current situation and his regret at not being given the chance to continue what has been a stellar spell in charge of Pafos FC in Cyprus' top flight.
Stephen confessed: “It's disappointing, I won 12 out of 18 games and I resurrected players who I had been told wouldn't help me yet came to life again.
“Then I was told they had appointed a Sporting Director who would appoint the coach.
"Naturally he was aIways going to appoint his own guy, though I felt he could have at least talked to me about the position but I know the way of the world by now. That's football.
“So I am open to offers and this is the life of a coach. On the positive side I hope the spell at Pafos FC has shown clubs I am not just a national coach and that I can do the job at club level as well.
“I have loved the day to day involvement at the club and I would prefer to stay in that environment
“For now I am swimming 2-3kms in the sea in Cyprus every morning and trying to stay fit and, of course, watch as much football from around the world as possible."
ITALY v ENGLAND: THE CONSTANTINE VERDICT
I WAS sitting on my sofa in Cyprus with tears streaming down my face.
That was the scene in my household when England beat Denmark to qualifying for the Final of Euro 2020.
That's what it means even to a battle-hardened coach like me, to see England qualify for the European Championship Finals for the first time and the only final we have been involved in 55 years.
It was emotional for me and I imagine many others.
We have to be fair and say that the penalty that clinched the semi-final was a SHOCKING decision but we are there.
When I was in India as the Head Coach I always used to say: 'There are 1.3BILLION coaches here and they all know better than me.'
Gareth lives with that sort pressure day in and day out at this tournament but he knows the players better than anyone else.
Not just how they are on the pitch but how they react to things as PEOPLE.
In India the criticism I faced was that I didn't pick the best players but I picked players that would fit the system that were able to do what we wanted them to do. You have to consider a number of things at that level and of course who we would be playing against.
In my eyes football is played WITHOUT the ball it is vital that you have players who can accept that and I am sure that in Southgate's mind he is thinking whether Jack Grealish plays or he doesn't.
While going forward he is top class he doesn't cover the ground like Declan Rice or Kalvin Phillips who can do the dirty work. Do you make the sacrifice ?
It's difficult to try and please everyone and as a coach you shouldn't try to.
The only people you need to please in that job are your employers at the FA. Gareth Southgate now has a World Cup semi-final on his CV and a European Championship Final.
He can do whatever he wants as far as I am concerned, he has earned the right.
He has made some very clever substitutions and we are in the Final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years.
I do think that sometimes we are a little bit too defensive with both Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in midfield, but that is my opinion and Southgate has got it spot on so far.
That worried me in the first two games because I feel Rice and Phillips are great players but very SIMILAR players.
They don't have the creativity of Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho.
As a nation we lose a little spark but you can't argue with the results.
When you play with three up front for me you are forcing Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling wide and for me right now I see Sterling as a second striker.
Look at the chemistry Sterling and Harry Kane have and, of course, between them the goals and the assists created in this tournament. I feel Sterling has been England's Man of the Tournament, he is top quality and I like how he comes across in interviews too.
During this tournament he fielded a question: 'Do you feel you have justified your selection for England?'
I thought he was extremely polite! I felt a little insulted by the question to be honest and I am sure Raheem was not too impressed either.
He has been top class for England and I honestly thought the question was a little disrespectful of him and his contribution to Southgate's set-up.
While he may not have been tearing it up at Manchester City before these Finals you can't put everything on him, there are 24 top pros there, not just him.
For me there was never ever a doubt about his selection any more then there was a doubt about should Harry Kane play or not.
Raheem's form may have qualified as a bad patch with his club but Gareth has picked him because he KNOWS what he can do for him
At international level I have picked players who have not been playing regularly for their clubs because I know what they will give ME when they come to the National team.
That's life as an international Head Coach, Sterling's recent international impact in terms of goals has been huge.
Then look at Sterling's impact on matches for England and how many goals he had been involved in never mind how many he has scored.
Stats have a place but they can't be the sole reason on whether you pick a player or not.
My Scottish friends will not like this but when Scotland play England it is a bigger game for Scotland than it is for England.
Yet that 0-0 draw in the group was intriguing and the Scots got a superb result at Wembley but for England it was another point and job done as far as qualifying from the groups. Four points was enough.
So I understood the boos at the end for England but this is tournament football, it's not about how you start it is about how you finish that is important.
Scotland were tenacious, full of running and I just wondered what they could have done in these Finals with some of my idols like Joe Jordan, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Archie Gemmill. I absolutely loved them.
In the opposite technical area from Southgate? Well, as a coach who nine times out of 10 is suit and booted I have to respect Roberto Mancini's TAILOR and how he looks. Now that's style!
Seriously, I respect that. He shows respect for his opponents, the game and everyone in the stadium looking at Italy's bench? You know who the boss is.
I am not a fan of seeing coaches in jeans and a T-shirt, maybe I am getting old but I feel we must set a good example and while I am not saying we all need to be suited looking professional is a must at any level.
For me Italy have been and still ARE the best team in this tournament.
The way they have played without the ball has been superb. My only doubts about them arose in the semi-final when they conceded too much of the ball to Spain.
I felt Spain controlled that game for large periods of time and they could and should have possibly won the game.
The work-rate of the Italians off the ball is phenomenal and they are happy to sit back and get 10 men behind it at times.
When they break, though, they break in waves and that shows unbelievable commitment and determination to get forward, not just two or three players sometimes five and six. I just love that commitment and drive to get forward.
They have threats all over the pitch and they could also hurt England at set-plays I fear.
They have class in the likes of Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa but I feel that the loss of the left-back Leonardo Spinazzola was a HUGE blow for them.
He had a magnificent tournament, drifting into positions and finding himself in so many threatening areas further forward.
At 36 now Giorgio Chiellini just knows how to play his position, no fancy stuff and still in such fantastic condition even now as a player.
He is becoming an Italian LEGEND now, in the same realm as the master defenders they have had with the heritage of Facchetti, Gentile and Scirea, Costacurta, Nesta and the Rolls Royce that was Paolo Maldini.
He is an immense figure but I think he will be on the LOSING side tomorrow.
I believe England will win this Final and they will win it 2-1.
There will I hope be over 60,000 people there, it's at Wembley and we are never going to get a better chance than this.
It's all or nothing, the momentum is building and I believe this is our moment. After 55 years, it's time.
WHY POSTECOGLOU IS NOT A LEFT-FIELD APPOINTMENT FOR CELTIC
ANGE POSTECOGLOU can handle the heat of being Celtic manager.
He has been at the top level and is Scotland the top level in Europe? I would contend that currently it is not.
In Scotland an Englishman is seen as a left-field appointment never mind an Australian!
Seriously, too often I feel in the UK as a whole we have blinkers on and we don't look outside our own little bubble.
I have met Ange a few times, he has done a decent job in Australian club football then took the national team to the World Cup as he should as they are the superpower of the region.
Then he goes to Yokohama and they haven't won the J-League for 15 years and he gets them the championship.Who has won the league in Scotland except for two teams since Sir Alex Ferguson and Aberdeen almost 40 years ago now?
So I am sorry I don't see this as a left-field appointment. This is a highly qualified coach who has won leagues in his own country, been to a World Cup and then travelled to Japan and won the league there.
Japan is the best league in Asia and other than Rangers or Celtic I'm not sure any Scottish team would be in the top five in the J-League.
Take my experience into account here. I spoke to a Sporting Director in Scotland and he told me he had to think of the perception if they appointed someone like me.
I knew there would be people asking: 'Who the f* is this guy?' I've had that most of my career.
Take the time, though, to look at where I have been and I feel I have made a positive influence every place I have been.
I've never managed in England or Scotland but I hadn't managed In any of the other countries I have travelled to.
There are obstacles where I have coached that just don't exist in the UK.
So, look, it may be a surprise appointment with Ange at Celtic but Postecoglou is as good as anyone they have in Scotland believe me.