Whilst at St George’s Park with his England U21 Squad, Gareth spoke to Chris Grierson about his playing days, the centre and his time at Selhurst Park. Gareth captained the Palace side of 1994 to the First Division title having begun his career at the club, and made a total of 152 appearances for the Eagles across 4 seasons.
The 44-year-old broke into the first team as a teenager, and remembers the treatment he got from the senior players at the club upon his emergence, one of which was the current Palace manager Alan Pardew.
"Well it was an education, on and off the field!" He said.
"I have to say he [Pardew] was really good with the younger players – he was one of the senior pros who, looking back, you can see why he would go into coaching. It was a really hostile environment, which was created not only by the staff but also by the players who came in: there was a real hunger amongst them. Going into training with the first team as a youngster, Brighty [Mark Bright] was on your case all the time or Alan was having a go at you: it was sink or swim. But I think that, in essence, you have to come through those things as a young player."
Despite playing in midfield during his time at Palace, Southgate is well known for his exploits playing in the heart of the defence, having represented England at senior level as a centre back.
"Well basically I wasn’t good enough in midfield! Certainly in the year we won the Championship, I think I scored 9 goals that season. That worked, but I don’t think I would have gone on to play international football as a midfielder," he conceded.
"I wasn’t so good at receiving the ball with my back to goal: that wasn’t something that we were taught as a kid at Palace. When I moved to defence, I was a better ball-playing centre back because of my experiences in midfield, but also the game was in front of me and I could see pictures develop quicker, so it worked really well."
Southgate retired from international football in 2004 and retired from club level 2 years later. Although he enjoyed success at Aston Villa and Middlesborough, he holds the Eagles closest to his heart.
"I was lucky enough to play for some big teams, but my time at Palace, probably because I grew up there, is the period I have the most affinity to. A group of players that grew up together and the experiences that you have when you’re teenagers and early 20s; you have a closer bond than when you do as an older player."
The full interview is available for free at eagles.cpfc.co.uk.