As well as leading our brave boys to a historic victory against Sweden at the weekend, Gareth Southgate has also achieved the impossible by making a waistcoat look half-decent.
Back at the beginning of the 2018 World Cup, most people’s response to the question “is Gareth Southgate a snack?” would surely be a kind-natured no. He looks like a nice enough bloke, you tell your mates over a pint, but does he possess that certain je ne sais quoi known as certified snack status? No offense, Gaz, but Absolutely Not.
Alternatively, your answer to this question might be “what on earth is a snack?”. In which case: a brief explanation. A snack is a person who exudes the air of being a tasty morsel; an individual that could be happily gobbled up in one go. A snack is the human equivalent of a cheeky Mars Bar on a Thursday afternoon, or a moreish bag of Babybel eaten all too soon. Other snack examples: Kieran Trippier, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford. By extension, Gary Lineker represents a particularly rare intersection, given that he is both a snack, and a man who helps Walkers crisps to sell actual snacks.
It should also be noted that to be a snack is less about superficial appearances and more about exuding overall appeal. Which leads us onto… the specific moment that Gareth Southgate became a snack.
Here, everybody, is the exact precise moment that Gareth Southgate’s snack potential was fully realised. After England beat Colombia (yayyy!) last night on penalties, our manager resisted the urge to scream with euphoria right away. Instead of gloating, he made a beeline for the opposition’s midfielder Mateus Uribe who missed the crucial penalty, and comforted him instead. What a fucking snack.
The thing is, Gareth Southgate’s been in Uribe’s shoes before. During Euro ’96, the now-manager played for England and he missed his own pivotal penalty in a semi-final shoot out against Germany. It was a moment of crushing disappointment, and at the time, he was consoled by his manager Terry Venables.
Twenty-two years on, you wouldn’t have blamed Southgate for celebrating his moment of redemption,; in fact, most people would agree he deserves it. But the fact he kept things classy, and remembered his own low moment even at one of his highest, speaks volumes. Particularly, it indicates one thing. Gareth Southgate is a snack.
Importantly, Gareth Southgate 1) does not realise he is a snack 2) is a credit to all snacks. Several people have shared their own anecdotes around his display of kindness after last night’s game. Sports presenter Jake Humphrey – who used to present CBBC Sportsround – posted a thread on Twitter speaking about his experience of meeting Southgate when he was filming a segment for the kid’s TV show. Instead of cancelling interviews and keeping the film crew away from training players (the norm, Humphrey says) Southgate went above and beyond. “Straight away he said ‘come and meet the players’ and took us right into the centre of the training pitch,” Humphrey said, “stopped the players working, and told them about us and how crucial he believed sport was on children’s TV to inspire the next generation.”
In stark opposition to his predecessor Sam Allardyce – a thoroughly charming chap who once claimed that “foreign players, they do make a big fuss of it” – Gareth Southgate is a progressive who is willing to learn and listen; recently he switched his England squad to a unique 3-3-2-2 formation after watching Germany, Portugal, Mexico, and Chile play at the Confederations Cup. He’s also spoken about the symbolism of England’s squad; his team has an average age of 26, and 11 of England’s players are people of colour.
“We’re a team with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England,” Gareth Southgate told The Guardian. “In England we’ve spent a bit of time being lost as to what our modern identity is. I think as a team we represent that modern identity.” Snack.
And then, there’s Gareth Southgate’s recent style decisions. There’s something so touchingly wholesome about the sort of man who collects and hordes £65 Marks & Spencer waistcoats ready for match day; each one neatly pressed and an identical hue of navy. It suggests a man of the people. And while waistcoats might not be due their fashion moment – put it like this, they’re not coming home and landing straight in the opening pages of Vogue any time soon – that’s sort of irrelevant in this case.
You can just imagine Gareth Southgate, in the run up to the World Cup, thinking to himself ‘’Cor, Mumford & Sons look well dapper in those waistcoats, don’t they?’ and popping into Marks and Sparks on a whim. You can imagine him doing a little tiny fist pump at the realisation that his favourite waistcoat in the whole shop is not only modestly priced and equipped with special Button Safe™ heat-proof buttons; it has hexagonal lining which looks a bit like a football! You can imagine him nervously test-wearing his waistcoat to training, and asking his lads “I know it’s a daring look, but do you think I can pull it off?”.
And you can also imagine one of his lads – let’s be honest here, it’s probably going to be Harry Kane aka. the man who made plastic goggles into a statement accessory – saying “pal, you look like a snack”.
There’s a famous ancient proverb that goes something like this: you search the entire world for perfection, only to realise its been there right under your nose the entire time. Gareth Southgate is that man, and last night, a snack was born.