What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘conservative?’  Out of touch, unimaginative, boring, comical, farcical… England?

At a time when associating with the word is about as popular as conscription, Gareth Southgate seems to go out of his way to identify with conservatism.

Aside from the fact that he and Rishi Sunak could hold each other’s press conferences without anybody noticing, their rhetoric is littered with promises that never materialise and plans that on closer inspection are devoid of the kind of detail necessary for evolution.

Balance is a big problem for England.  The shift to the right is so great that it’s said Nigel Farage is jealous.  Three right backs and a right winger in each of the group games is a big problem.  Imbalance affects the timing of ball speed, which means that players struggle to manipulate the ball with the necessary quickness that makes the difference at the highest level.  This leads to stagnation, followed by a fruitless search for alternative ideas and ultimately, predictability and failure. Remind you of anything?

Thankfully, the lack of attacking opposition so far has meant that England have rarely found themselves on the back foot as a team.  But make no mistake, the centre cannot hold.  Savvy operators expose weaknesses, and the best ones come at you from all sides. 

For England fans, these Euros are like watching your child compete in the sack race at the school sports day while the real athletes in the class line up for the sprint on the other side of the field.  Southgate continues to operate under the illusion that we are competing with the best, but we’re not even playing the same game.

One of Southgate’s issues, which is England’s issue, is that he is too respectful of the opposition, too fearful of what might come at his team.  Analysing the opposition is an integral part of football but not to the extent that it threatens to undermine the natural strengths of ones own team.

I can remember James Harper pointing this out to Steve Coppell in an opposition analysis meeting once.  “It’s Wigan, not Real Madrid”, Harps had said.  Coppell thought about it for a moment and agreed, the video analysis was switched off and we went out to train instead.  The next day we battered Wigan.

Current conservatism is ultimately selfish in its inception and seems to boil down to a single headline; worry a little more about what you give us, rather than what we give you.  In politics as it is in football, that mantra is a recipe for staid inactivity. Just asking the fans to stay with you doesn’t mean it’ll happen.

I saw Southgate speak once, pre Covid in fact, at the football writers dinner in London.  His entire speech, which lasted around 20 minutes, spoke exclusively to those journalists who might otherwise have given him a hard time.  It was laced with lines that hinted at the work to be done, and how positive journalism can help to foster the grand design.  And the journalists in that room, usually inebriated with the kind of healthy cynicism towards anybody coming at them with a silver tongue, swallowed it.

And here we are years later, sleepwalking into the next round of a major competition.  In the six games that took place in Group C, a record low of seven goals were scored with England contributing just two.

Following the drab draw with Slovenia in which England were as uninspiring as a Tory manifesto, Rishi, sorry Gareth, refused to condemn fans that threw glasses at him, which is as spineless as those fans are vile, and claimed, “we’ve made England fun again.”

Fast forward to Slovakia and you have to wonder what a Gareth Southgate house party looks like.

In case you haven’t realised yet, there will be no “click”. There will be no turning point or sudden upswing in performances. England will not suddenly play a fluid and exciting brand of football. When Southgate says that England haven’t played their best yet, what he means is that the team hasn’t played his brand of football as well as he’d have liked them to.

This July there will finally come a vote that will reshape the future of our country.  A change is expected, and this country will no longer have to put up with the God-awful Conservatism that has caused so much heartache for so many people.

Apparently, there’s a general election, too.


Following on from the popularity of our June group sessions, we have added more group sessions in July. I’m also launching my new ‘Masterclass’ sessions, designed to help develop young players in different positions.

There will be sessions for goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders - and two Masterclass sessions aimed at creating more chances and scoring more goals.

To enquire about our July group sessions and Masterclasses, please email mark@davekitsonacademy.co.uk and we’ll be in touch with more information.