Stuff Meets: Gareth Southgate

Tears of sadness flood the streets, as England just missed out on a Euros 2021 victory, yet they put in a sterling performance under Mr Gareth Southgate. Before all this, we caught up with the England manager to discuss football (obvs), embracing tech and whether it’s fake crowd noise on or off.

Augmented reality could upgrade tactic talks

One of the things we're always looking at is delivery of team meetings and how that can be more interesting. So for tactical ideas for players, something like augmented reality can show where they move and is able to move people around the pitch. So with young players, some of the tactical learning could take place with that type of a system.

Tech in sport has an exciting future

It's quite fascinating to see how sport has embraced technology over the years, and what the next stages might be. I know in America I've been seeing guys recovering from injuries with virtual reality headsets. So some of the quarterbacks are able to go into plays, and make the type of movement where people will come in to make tackles. The idea is they're then able to dodge tackles without actually having the hits. 

Embracing tech is part of modern management

With England it's more to do with the wider team of staff. So, of course as the manager you've got to have an understanding of what people are doing. We've got seven or eight different departments, from medical, to video analysis to the commercial team and they're all a part of building support for the team. A lot of those guys are further ahead than I am on where technology is and where data needs to be in certain departments. We're embracing it. I obviously don't understand all of the details, but I've got people that are better than me in those areas who are able to bring that to the table. We know everything in the world is changing so quickly that you've got to be ahead of all of those advancements.

The right performance data has been huge for the game

Years ago, the only real accurate data we had was around how far people ran. Normally it was used in a really basic way. You'd get the fitness coach to bring it to you on a Monday and tell you he didn't run far enough and therefore we didn't win. It was a really misguided assessment of things. Now, we've got so much accurate performance data around every pass that's played you can assess teams much more clearly. We've actually got too much and we have to make sure that the data we use is really accurate and specific. So we spend a lot of time sorting out what is the really relevant for us as a team that relates to improving our own performance, but also preparing us for the next opponent.

I turn fake crowd noise off when watching games on TV

I know my son wanted the noise on. For me, it's more interesting without, because I can hear the way players communicate, which for me is a really important piece of information when I'm watching players play. In actual fact, even now back at the stadiums when there haven't been fans, you learn a lot about leadership, who's organising each other in really difficult moments, so I prefer the crowd noise off.

No fans has changed coaching from the sidelines

It's changed the way that we coach on the side, because you can get information to the players more clearly. Also, as a group of staff and with the subs, you're trying to create an atmosphere of encouragement for the players on the pitch. They miss that adrenaline, the boost of the fans in the stadium. Somehow you have to create more of a collective atmosphere with the whole squad really.

My phone is everything

I run my life on my phone, so without it now I'm not quite sure how I would operate. I’m using apps for things like fitness because I'm not able to get to the gym at the moment. Obviously, there’s everything to do with work on there, like calendars, emails. All of my music is on there too, lots of the sports news articles too. One of the things we're always checking as soon as the teams are released on a Saturday is who's playing and who's not playing, when players come off. There’s so much data around the matches as well.

Andy Townsend loved his tech

I always remember when I played for Aston Villa and Andy Townsend was always up to speed on what was new. He was always across everything. So you'd be travelling to an away game, and he'd have a magazine with all the latest stuff in there, whether it was (I'm showing my age now) a new Hi-Fi system or whatever. He also played the electric guitar. He was always over whatever the latest television was and whatever new things were coming out at that time.

Going to Villa Park still gives me that buzz that I got as a player

I still love going to Villa Park where I played obviously. Goodison Park is great too, where crowds are really tight to the pitch. I still enjoy going to those stadiums.

Gareth Southgate helped launch the world’s first 5G AR foosball tournament hosted by EE at Wembley Stadium and you can catch all the action here.