THE World Cup waistcoat has already been consigned to history.
And Gareth Southgate knows the goodwill generated during England’s most successful campaign for 28 years, won’t last forever either.
Indeed, the Three Lions coach reckons he might already have lost a few brownie points following the 2-1 defeat against Spain on Saturday.
Two months ago, Southgate was the most popular figure in the country. He could do no wrong as England marched into the semi-finals in Russia.
There was even talk of him being the man to solve the Brexit dilemma.
“I’m under no illusions that it won’t last very long at all, – if it has beyond Saturday”
Gareth Southgate – England manager
It’s a puzzle of a different kind Southgate is wrestling with right now.
If that Nations League opener told him the Three Lions still lag behind the major forces in league football, Tuesday’s friendly against Switzerland at Leicester’s King Power Stadium will drive home another brutal truth.
That’s he’s managing the national side at a time when just 30 per cent of Premier League players are English.
And several members of his squad struggle for playing time in the domestic game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Welbeck will be handed their first competitive starts of the season but are unlikely to figure in their respective club’s starting line-ups this weekend.
Southgate insists he couldn’t care less about the risk of making history for all the wrong reasons tonight.
Defeat against the Swiss would make him the first England boss to lose four successive games in 146 years of international football.
That won’t stop him ringing the changes, convinced the development of the fringe players in his squad is more important than the short-term gain of a win.
But Southgate is very conscious that if Switzerland follow in the footsteps of Croatia, Belgium and Spain, he’ll soon run out of credit.
“I’m under no illusions that it won’t last very long at all, – if it has beyond Saturday,” he said. “But I can’t let that affect my thinking.
“I’ve said over the previous 18 months I’ve got to make decisions that I think are the right ones and not manage in fear with short-term options.
“The fans will understandably react to whatever results and performances we have and I’m aware of that.
“But I’ve also got to be strong enough to stick to the beliefs of the way I want to play.”
What Southgate is looking for tonight is a clean sheet. England have conceded six in their last three games.
Those stats concern Harry Maguire who knows how important it is for the Three Lions to restore their reputation as tough nuts to crack.
“As a defender, we take pride in getting clean sheets,” said the Leicester defender, who’ll be playing in front of his own fans tonight.
“To concede two goals in each of the last three games is not what we want.
“On Saturday, we felt it was two poor goals on our behalf, especially when you concede from a set play.
“It was an area where we were really strong at the World Cup but we lost a game from it which we’re all disappointed with.
“We’re working hard on the training pitch to try and stop that and hopefully we’ll improve in the forthcoming fixtures.
“From my point of view, the defence was the bedrock of the team, keeping clean sheets and being difficult to score against. That’s always the starting point for any team.
“We conceded too many fouls in our third at the weekend which hasn’t been common in the last 18 months so its’ back to that focus and concentration.”