Gareth Southgate believes England have “lifted some of the gloom” in the country by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Southgate’s squad flew back to Birmingham on Sunday afternoon after becoming only the third English team to reach the last four.
Reflecting on England’s showing at the tournament, Southgate told Sky Sports News: “That’s the privilege of being involved with England. We have a chance to be involved with people’s lives and bringing happiness to millions and we’ve lifted some of the gloom in this country.
“It’s only temporary but still a very powerful thing to be involved with. We’re looking forward to (doing) that again.”
Southgate spoke of his pride in the players and admitted they will now have to cope with rising expectations.
“When you play for or manage England, expectations are always pretty high, but because we are better we should be better able to cope with it,” he said.
“There are certain hurdles we needed to overcome, certain historical landmarks having not won a knockout game for 10 years, having never won a penalty shoot-out in a World Cup so they are things we have now broken through and we’ve shown what’s possible.
“We know there’s a lot of work to do with this team, we know we still have to strive for the level of the top five or six countries in the world, but we’re competitive against those teams and we are beating all the other teams around us and we’re improving.”
Southgate was giving little away about whether any of the squad’s senior players will be calling time on their international careers.
He went on: “I’ve had conversations with a couple and we will continue that dialogue. A couple of them may not want the same sort of involvement or may want to finish but it’s only right they discuss that, rather than me.
“The good thing is we’ve had really mature conversations about it and now we’ve got to build on the squad that went out to Russia. We have some young players underneath this group.”
The players now have just a few weeks to rest and prepare for the Premier League season, which starts on August 10, but Southgate is sure they will all be ready.
“I think they’re physically in a very good place.
“We’ve brought everyone back fully fit, which is remarkable and great credit to the conditioning team and the players, who’ve embraced the way of working.”
England are next in action on September 8 against Spain in a Nations League match and after joking he would be spending “the next couple of days asleep” Southgate said: “I’ll be back into the office one day this week to get some plans in place for September.
“Then I can get a couple of weeks’ break before the start of the season.”
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