David Sheepshanks: Southgate is the man to bring football home again
- Credit: Archant
The "exceptional" Gareth Southgate is the man to bring football home again, says former Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks.
Sheepshanks, who helped create the St George's Park National Football Centre after leaving Ipswich, has clearly never lost his love for the beautiful game.
No amount of years serving on boards, pulling strings behind the scenes or working in football's business world has stopped him from being first and foremost, a fan.
He has been among the first to jump out of their seat at Wembley for every goal he has seen this tournament – and does not shy away from voicing his admiration for "top man" Gareth Southgate.
The way Southgate held his nerve after his men went behind against Denmark, Sheepshanks said, is why he believes the former U21 manager is following in the footsteps of Ipswich and England legends Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson.
He said: "Feeling the buzz of that crowd – having been at the semi final of the World Cup in 2018 against Croatia and comparing it against Wednesday... It was incredible.
"Having watched Gareth so much over the years, I can say he is an absolute gentleman. He has a great self awareness, he's got as high an EQ as he does an IQ.
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"He has authority, he is a measured man, a great thinker with great inner strength. When the Denmark goal went in, I sat there thinking 'oh no, it can't be another semi final heartbreak can it?' but he stayed absolutely strong.
"He is a remarkable man, a man of the time who was destined for this chance. I feel very privileged to have gotten to know him and work with him."
Sheepshanks added that while Italy will be the team's toughest opponents of the tournament, he has full faith in the Three Lions and what they can continue to achieve in future years.
He said: "Whatever happens, Russia was the start of it, this is the next stage. We have another world cup next year and there is no reason why England shouldn't be at the very forefront of major tournaments for years to come, I hope under the leadership of Gareth.
"At the end of the day, like all of us, I am a fan and I absolutely love what I'm seeing from them. Isn't it just lovely to say we are proud of England as a football team – we should treasure everything we are watching now.
"What we have to be proud of is all of the people who have played their part. Every team needs an exceptional leader and Gareth is it. He has so many special people around him.
"We just have to cross our fingers, cross our toes and pray that on Sunday we can go the whole hog."
But no matter the match, Sheepshanks said he will always carry a piece of Portman Road in his heart.
"I'll be carrying Portman Road in my heart at the final," he said. "I was pointing out to someone on Wednesday that we have a tiny little piece of Ipswich down there in Tyrone Mings on the sideline. I will always claim him as a little bit of ours.
"He really does love and care about our club, whenever I've spoken to him he's always asking how things are at Portman Road. He is a top, top guy."