Gareth Southgate has expressed his fierce patriotism instilled in him from his grandfather serving in the army in an open letter to the nation before the European Championships.
The England manager, 50, says his grandfather fighting in World War II was a huge influence on his life and has helped him define what it means to wear the Three Lions and to coach the team.
Southgate, writing in the Players’ Tribune, insists his squad feel the same about England ahead of a tournament where they could play most of their games on home soil.
“My sense of identity and values is closely tied to my family and particularly my granddad,” Southgate wrote. “He was a fierce patriot and a proud military man, who served during World War II.
“The idea of representing ‘Queen and country’ has always been important to me. We do pageantry so well in Britain, and, growing up, things like the Queen’s silver jubilee and royal weddings had an impact on me.
“Because of my granddad, I’ve always had an affinity for the military and service in the name of your country – though the consequence of my failure in representing England will never be as high as his. My granddad’s values were instilled in me from a young age and I couldn’t help but think of him when I lined up to sing the national anthem before my first international caps.”
Southgate believes “everyone” has that pride in the country, including his players, who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup three years ago when they helped unite the country.
They face Croatia at the national stadium on Sunday with other group games against Scotland and Czech Republic as they look to secure a place in the knockout stages.
“What cannot be questioned about the current generation of England players is their pride in representing this country,” Southgate added. “This idea that some players don’t know what it means to play for England – or don’t care – has become something of a false narrative.”
On Tuesday, Southgate showed his squad an emotional video montage of England’s football history to inspire players ahead of the European Championship.
At a team meeting at their St George’s Park base, Southgate’s squad were shown the footage and given a red velvet “legacy cap”, with a unique number for every player who has represented the country.
It came as Southgate revealed he will send his team out against Croatia on Sunday in their Euro 2021 opener with the same message as each of his games as manager, that they can “produce moments that people will remember forever”.
The presentation was one of the personal touches Southgate has introduced, with his players at the 2018 World Cup having pictures of their family placed in their rooms at the team hotel.
“It was about the legacy, it was mentioned about the past players and how important they were to this nation,” said England full-back Luke Shaw.
“As you’ve seen with the legacy number, it was showing the players who’ve got them and at the end of the video there was a little bit about us. The video was very inspiring.
“You felt like you got a lot of confidence and belief from watching that video personally and I looked around the whole group and felt like everyone had that same feeling.
“I think after the last tournament things came out very positive, even though they didn’t get to the final hurdle, there were lots of positives to take from that tournament. We need to take those things into this one and push them even further.”
Shaw will have his legacy number stitched into his matchday shirt, as will one of the latest debutants Ben White, who made his debut in the friendlies heading into the tournament.
“We had the video and it showed the history of England and the players’ struggles coming through the years. It is a massive moment. The team now is a good group and we’re looking good,” he said.
Southgate revealed he gives his players the same message before every game, that they can make history. He also insists he will not ban his players from using social media during the Euros despite the toxic levels of abuse they encounter after matches.