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England: Gareth Southgate says worldwide perception of Three Lions has improved

Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham celebrate an England goal
England's Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham are two of the in-form players in Europe this year

Gareth Southgate says the global perception of the England team has improved over the past few years.

England were runners-up at Euro 2020 and will be among the favourites for next summer's tournament in Germany.

"That was one of the reasons I joined the FA 10 years ago. We felt we wanted to do that [enhance England's reputation]," Southgate said.

"We have achieved that throughout the rest of Europe, because when I travel I realise that's how people now see us."

Southgate added: "We haven't achieved that so much with our own public at times."

England, who have not won a major trophy since 1966, top Group C in the Euro 2024 qualifiers and host Malta at Wembley on Friday, 17 November before travelling to North Macedonia the following Monday.

Southgate led England to fourth place at the 2018 World Cup and to the Euros final at Wembley in 2021, where they were beaten by Italy on penalties.

The side also suffered a quarter-final exit at the World Cup in Qatar last year.

"We were top scorers per game at the World Cup and we've been top scorers in qualifying for the two previous tournaments," added Southgate. "Without a doubt, that's how we want to play.

"We want the fans to come to Wembley to see goals and exciting performances - and we've had some good nights. We will keep trying to do that."

Jude Bellingham's emergence as a goalscoring threat in a more advanced role for Real Madrid has given England another attacking option, but Southgate says there is less certainty as to who may provide cover as deputy for Bayern Munich forward Harry Kane.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins and Newcastle's Callum Wilson are among those already in the frame, while Brentford's Ivan Toney will be available again in March after completing his ban for repeated betting breaches.

"Next striker into Harry there's competition," said Southgate. "I don't think anybody's quite nailed that down yet. I'd say that's an even fight between a few," Southgate reflected.

"Ivan's obviously got a tougher challenge than a lot of the players because he has got that limited time frame, but we think he's got some really good attributes.

"We've just got to see where he is. I haven't spoken with him for a few months, but I am in touch with the club. We know how he is progressing.

"In the end the key is when he gets back playing, how he goes on the pitch."

'Who decides when owners are good or bad?'

Southgate says the plan for a new independent regulator in English football outlined in the King's speech could become as contentious as the video assistant referee (VAR).

In February, the government announced plans to appoint a regulator, following a fan-led review last year and King Charles said the Football Governance Bill, which will introduce a regulator, will "safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans" - with a strengthened owners' and directors' test part of the plan.

"If I'm honest, I don't really know what the remit is," said Southgate.

"I know as an organisation the FA have supported the idea of some sort of financial controls, but I'm not sure what's expected of the position and who is this person and what their experiences are.

"It would worry me that we're trying to find simple solutions to very complex problems - which is often the way in life.

"If we interviewed every owner in the league for example, would we have come to the right conclusion as to whether they were going to be good or bad at that moment in time? I'd say no.

"And who actually decides when they are good or bad? I was at [Aston] Villa for years. Everybody used to hammer [former owner and chairman] Doug Ellis because he didn't spend enough, and yet he left a club that had a great training ground, great developed ground, financially stable, always in the top six, won a couple of trophies. Was he a good owner or a bad owner?

"Different people will have a different view. I haven't read through it all because I'm dubious that we can solve all the issues. For me, it's another VAR waiting to happen."