David Parkin asks Gareth Southgate leading questions

THEY used to say being England football manager was the impossible job.

English managers who had succeeded in the domestic game tried it.

Foreign managers who had won European honours at club level were imported and didn’t do much better.

Whatever was tried, the Football Association never achieved the holy grail of winning a major tournament, whether it was the Euros or England’s first World Cup since Alf Ramsey did it back in 1966.

Whenever England did enter a tournament fans were united with a sense of expectation based more on hope than confidence.

Gareth Southgate has changed all that.

He has helped turn the team into a unit rather than a collection of over-privileged individuals.

He’s brought humility to a role not associated with that human quality.

And he’s made England supporters proud of the team that goes out onto the pitch to represent their country.

Clearly, he’s not actually won anything yet.

But at a “Leadership Lunch” organised by the Martin House children’s hospice charity yesterday, it is clear that under the modest, dignified exterior is a deeply competitive, proud and driven man who is determined to achieve the holy grail for his country.

Gareth Southgate is a passionate and deeply committed ambassador for Martin House, which is based at Boston Spa and provides support to young people and their families across North, East and West Yorkshire.

I recently joined the board for the Martin House The Build campaign to raise the money to be able to rebuild and equip the 34-year-old hospice to make it as modern and comfortable as possible.

It is an ambitious £19m project which will strengthen and expand the specialist palliative care it provides.

But you only have to listen to the parents of children who have been cared for by the team at Martin House to understand why this fundraising challenge has to be achieved.

Gareth Southgate has been involved with Martin House for many years, having got to know the charity when his wife was part of the organising committee of the charity’s annual Glitter Ball.

He makes himself available to support the charity’s events and yesterday’s lunch in the superb surroundings of Bowcliffe Hall near Wetherby, was an off the record question and answer session for around 40 guests.

Bowcliffe has been lovingly restored to its former glory by its owner the entrepreneur Jonathan Turner of oil company Bayford Group.

The Blackburn Wing where our lunch took place, has not surprisingly won lots of design awards and is a treehouse style structure in the shape of an aeroplane wing nestled in woodland and overlooking farmland.

You would never know you were a few hundred yards from the A1.

The aeroplane inspiration came from Robert Blackburn, a former owner of Bowcliffe Hall, who was an early aviation pioneer who built his first monoplane in 1909 and piloted the world’s first scheduled flight in 1914.

It only went from Leeds to Bradford, but it was definitely the start of something big.

I was asked to compere the event which involved chairing the Q&A with Gareth and introducing Martin House chief executive Clair Holdsworth and mum Julie Walker, who came to tell her daughter Holly’s story.

Holly passed away at Martin House in 2021 aged 24.

The memories are still clearly raw for Julie and her husband Lee, but she was able to focus on the positives of Holly’s final months – such as when Martin House arranged for a team from the armed forces to carry her to the summit of one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Julie and Lee will soon do the same trip again in Holly’s memory and to raise money for Martin House.

Gareth has met the couple before and as soon as he arrived at the lunch he greeted them with warmth and compassion and Julie, who I know was nervous about speaking, immediately looked more confident.

Gareth was asked about leadership, teams, taking inspiration and ideas from other sports, his thoughts on individual players and his reflections on the recent Euro and World Cup tournaments.

He answered every question honestly and fluently and by the end of the event left no one there in any doubt that if England don’t achieve the holy grail during his time as manager, then it won’t be for want of trying, lack of preparation or attitude.

I concluded the event by observing that they say you should never meet your heroes.

Gareth knocked that myth out of the park yesterday.

For more information on the Martin House The Build campaign, see:


Or get in touch, I’d love to tell you more.

Picture: Duncan Lomax, www.ravageproductions.co.uk


I WAS reflecting on the National Conservatism Conference which took place in London last week.

It seemed to be a gathering of those from the right wing of the Tory party – and beyond.

I listened to a couple of podcasts which featured clips from speakers with what could be called eclectic, or extreme, opinions, depending on your view.

If you were being generous you would say many of the speakers were focused on an “anti-woke” agenda although some veered off in a direction that suggested they were angry at everything in the world.

Whether that provides a potent electoral agenda is a moot point.

I thought that success in politics comes from focusing on hope, not fear.

Apparently the conference, as is the custom today, was referred to by the abbreviated title of Nat Con.

There is an annual event called Comic Con which started in America and is a convention focused on comic books and related forms of pop culture entertainment, such as cartoons, movies, TV shows and video games, particularly from sci-fi and fantasy genres.

Guests appearing at the event include actors which have featured in these kind of productions and writers and directors who have helped produce them.

Delegates to the convention tend to dress up as their favourite characters and some even converse in the language featured in their favourite fantasy or sci-fi film.

Comic Con has become a huge success and now take place in countries across the world.

I don’t think Nat Con will do the same.

Well, the ridiculous, fantastical characters and bizarre language would put people off.

Have a great weekend.

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