Bob White speaks similarly: “I was alive to see 1966 at 10 years of age. Historically, it’s incredible. I think for me, regarding Gareth, I remind people that he is one of our own. Don’t forget that – we stick with him. He’s come through the ranks of Crystal Palace and we should be incredibly proud of that.”
“I’m really proud to say that I’m still a mate of his,” says Thomas. “He’s been a delight to keep in touch with.”
Writing about his career a few years ago, Southgate was modest: “Ask me to list my achievements and I’ll ask you if you’ve got five seconds to spare.”
But while there are players with more glittering trophy cabinets, few could claim to inspire the same warmth that Southgate does from those who knew him best.
A Division One title and a League Cup winners medal remain the only silverware. But Southgate’s existential impact is far more important. He calms furores, encourages selflessness and inspires generosity, creating a spirit of togetherness that permeates outward from St. George’s Park and soothes the national psyche.
He’s a listener, often quiet and reflective when others would see anger as the only reaction. But that’s leadership.
When he walks out at Wembley to try and reach a sporting utopia that has evaded the nation for so long, he’ll inspire fond smiles from all those who don’t know him – and even fonder ones from those who do.
There can’t be many better achievements than that.