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Gareth Southgate to be played by Joseph Fiennes in Dear England – a new play about penalty misses and his ‘quiet reform’ of the beautiful game | Ents & Arts News

Joseph Fiennes is to play Gareth Southgate in a new play about the England men’s football manager’s “quiet reform” of the beautiful game – and the pressures of taking on the team with “the worst track record for penalties in the world”.

Dear England is written by acclaimed playwright and TV writer James Graham, and takes its name from an open letter to fans written by Southgate in 2021.

The story is inspired by the footballer’s journey from his infamous key penalty miss for England against Germany at Euro 96, to leading England to their first major final since the famous 1966 World Cup victory.

Fiennes, who is known for his roles in TV series including The Handmaid’s Tale and American Horror Story, and films including Shakespeare In Love and Enemy At The Gates, will take on the role when the show opens in June.

“It’s time to change the game,” begins the synopsis for the play, which will be staged at the National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre, in London. “The country that gave the world football has since delivered a painful pattern of loss. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game?

“With the worst track record for penalties in the world, Gareth Southgate knows he needs to open his mind and face up to the years of hurt to take team and country back to the promised land.”

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Graham, whose plays include the Tony-nominated Ink, Privacy, Best Of Enemies and Quiz – about the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? coughing scandal, which he turned into a TV series in 2020 – said it was the “greatest thrill, if an intimidating responsibility” to tell the story on stage at the National.

“What Gareth Southgate has attempted in his quiet cultural reform of England football I find epic and deeply moving,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to be surrounded by some of British theatre’s most exciting creative talent to unite around this new show.”

Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: “Dear England is a captivating examination into the complex psychology of the much loved ‘beautiful game’.”

Fiennes is the brother of Harry Potter and James Bond actor Ralph Fiennes and also a distant relative of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

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In 2021, Southgate penned Dear England to fans ahead of the Euro 2020 final (played in 2021 due to the pandemic) against Italy – which England went on to lose, once again, on penalties.

“I think about all the young kids who will be watching this summer, filling out their first wall charts,” he wrote at the end of the letter.

“No matter what happens, I just hope that their parents, teachers and club managers will turn to them and say, ‘Look. That’s the way to represent your country’. That’s what England is about. That is what’s possible. If we can do that, it will be a summer to be proud of.”

Tickets for Dear England go on sale to the public on 9 March 2023, with the play set to run from 10 June to 11 August.

Gareth Southgate to stay on as England manager after World Cup exit | UK News

Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager and lead the Three Lions at the 2024 Euros, the FA has confirmed.

The 52-year-old had been mulling his future following England’s 2-1 quarter-final defeat to France at the World Cup.

Southgate had a contract until the 2024 European Championships, but admitted to feeling “conflicted” about staying on given what has often been a difficult 18 months.

But the former England defender will now remain in charge for a fourth major tournament.

In a statement on Sunday, the FA said: “We are delighted to confirm that Gareth Southgate is continuing as England manager, and will lead our Euro 2024 campaign.

“Gareth and [assistant manager] Steve Holland have always had our full support, and our planning for the Euros starts now.”

Southgate led England to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia in 2018 and the final of last summer’s European Championships, before reaching the last eight in Qatar.

In the build-up to this year’s tournament there had been criticism of Southgate following a run of poor results.

Two defeats against Hungary, two draws against Germany and a draw and a defeat to Italy led to serious questions being asked about his future.

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Heartbreak for fans as England lose

But even after a positive response to the team’s World Cup run, Southgate stressed he needed a period of reflection to decide on the best course of action.

“I think, whenever I finish these tournaments, I’ve needed time to make correct decisions,” he said immediately after their exit.

“Emotionally you go through so many different feelings.

“The energy it takes through these tournaments is enormous.

“I want to make the right decision, whatever that is, for the team, for England, for the FA.

“I’ve got to be sure whatever decision I make is the right one.”

FA relief with no obvious successor to Southgate

Rob Harris

Rob Harris

Sports correspondent


Gareth Southgate finds himself in a position of strength within the FA, despite falling far short of the target of winning the World Cup.

After England’s quarter-final defeat to France, Southgate made clear publicly he could step away.

Effectively, the FA was given the option of saying it was time for change in the dugout after six years.

During the week of uncertainty, it became clear there was no obvious candidate to succeed him – someone who could take England deep into a tournament like the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and the last Euros final.

Southgate committing to seeing out his contract until 2024 is a relief for the FA, rather than the focus being on missed opportunities in Qatar.

The FA insisted Southgate has “always had our full support” and the hope will be he can end the trophy drought at Euro 2024.

First, they have to qualify.

Former England defender Gary Neville welcomed the news that Southgate was staying on.

“I think it’s the right decision,” he told Sky Sports News.

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“When I saw early last week it was going to be discussed in the new year I didn’t think that would work, letting it hang for so long.

“The fact it has come out is welcome, it puts it to bed and allows everyone to focus on the next 18 months.

“It means a succession plan can be put in place.”

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The story of the Qatar World Cup

Southgate has won 49 of his 81 games as England manager, with 18 draws and 14 defeats, while England have scored 174 goals and conceded 57.

Only two previous managers have reached a half-century in the win column – World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsey with 69 and England’s longest-serving manager Sir Walter Winterbottom, on 78.

World Cup: Gareth Southgate leaves himself exposed as England’s dire display reopens old wounds | World News

When the final whistle blew, boos boomed among the England fans at Al-Bayt Stadium.

They had enough.

A 0-0 draw against the Americans so turgid that the referee only added on four minutes – the lowest so far at this World Cup of 100-minute matches.

It seemed the 6-2 rout of Iran was just an anomaly on Monday.

This was the type of dire display England supporters have had to get used to in this year of six winless matches going into the World Cup and relegation in the Nations League.

Once again, Gareth Southgate is feeling the heat – despite leading England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, and Euro 2020 final. The frustrated fans made that clear with the jeering.

The Three Lions manager said: “People are going to react how they react, and I can’t let that affect how I feel about the team or how the team feels.”

‘We had to show another side’

Too defensive and too boring was the snap reaction of fans filtering out of the stadium.

Southgate accepted some concerns: “We lacked a little bit of zip and quality in the final third, and we weren’t able to open up, to create really good chances.

“But we had to show another side of ourselves.”

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So close: Fans react to England’s best chance

‘There’ll be a lot of noise’

A dismal display he hopes, though, won’t be repeated against Wales on Tuesday in the Group B finale.

Wales have to win to reach the last 16. England can lose 4-0 and still go through.

Not that the fans will accept that after the turgid display against the USA.

Southgate said: “I’m sure there’ll be a lot of noise about the performance.

“But not many teams go through World Cups and get nine points in the group.”

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Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group B - England v United States - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 25, 2022 England's Harry Kane reacts after missing a chance to score REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Captain Harry Kane had a disappointing night in front of goal

And still no England team can beat the Americans at a World Cup after failing at the third attempt.

The venue furthest north in Qatar is still only 45 minutes set from Doha.

England looked far more lethargic than their journey time suggested.

England will take the knee in Qatar, Gareth Southgate says | UK News

England will take the knee at the World Cup in Qatar, Gareth Southgate has confirmed.

It is “what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time”, he said.

The Three Lions did not make the anti-racism gesture during their games against Germany and Italy in September, but will be doing so when they play Iran in their opening Group B match tomorrow.

“We have discussed taking the knee,” Southgate said at a news conference in Doha. “We feel we should.”

Before the start of the season, Premier League captains decided to limit taking the knee to certain games, including Boxing Day and the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals.

“Of course we understand in the Premier League that the clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, big occasions,” Southgate said.

“We feel this is the biggest and we think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people, in particular, to see that inclusivity is very important.”

Speaking at an earlier news conference, Rob Page, the Wales boss, was asked whether FIFA had tried to stop his team wearing an armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Page replied: “No, we’ve said that the one love armband is what we’ll wear and it’s no different for us.”

Harry Kane, the England captain, will also be wearing the armband in the match against Iran.

Part of the opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium
Part of the opening ceremony at Al Bayt Stadium
Qatar World Cup opening ceremony

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FIFA, football’s world governing body, has asked players to wear a different armband with the message #FootballUnitesTheWorld.

According to the laws of the game, found on the International Football Association Board’s website, “equipment” must not have any “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images”.

During the opening ceremony this afternoon, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, said: “From Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022.”

“How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together.”

After he spoke fireworks exploded from the roof of Al Bayt stadium, about 30 miles north of the capital, Doha.

In the opening match of the tournament, Qatar were beaten 2-0 by Ecuador.