Southgate is trying to find the right balance between openness and privacy, between freedom and structure, and between rules and trust as he prepares for his first tournament as senior team manager.
Southgate wants to take a liberal approach, which is why he is relaxed about fun foreign holidays for his players this week. But when the squad are cooped up in Repino next month, Southgate knows how much time they will spend on their phones and on social media.
And while Southgate accepts the benefits of social media, and players getting their own messages across, he wants them to be wary of what comes back the other way. Especially given the dangers of sustained unpleasant criticism in upsetting his players.
“It’s good for the players to communicate with the fans,” said Southgate, who had warnings too. “I think it’s always important [to remember]that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued. And when you’re emotional it’s not a good time to do it.
Personally, I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally I think there’s a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life?”
Southgate does not want to put in too many rules and bans on the England players, when it comes to days off, mobile phones and so forth, so he will not ban social media either.
“I can’t ban them from looking at, because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room,” he said. “But I would make the suggestion: is it a good idea to read all of that? If you can rationalise it and accept it and put it into its own place then fine. I don’t know too many people who can do that. On a personal level I wouldn’t advise it but I accept that it’s part of life and go with it.”
Similarly Southgate will not impose a policy on mobile phone usage in Repino, but knows that players have decided to try not to use their phones during meal-times.
“We don’t have a policy as such,” Southgate said. “The players themselves on the back of our trip to the Royal Marines last year put a thing in place, where they felt around meal times they left their phones outside the meal rooms.
I don’t think we’ll have hard and fast rules. We have certain moments where you’re approaching training and they sit down together. There’s a cut-off. But I don’t like loads of rules, the players are responsible enough, they know what’s expected.”
Over the course of England’s three weeks at St George’s Park, before they fly to Russia on 12 June, Southgate will try to work out the exact first eleven for England’s opening game against Tunisia on Monday 18 June. England play Nigeria and Costa Rica on 2 and 6 June respectively, and will also play an ‘internal game’ just before flying out to keep the players match fit.
Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah will be training with England too, having missed most of the season with after knee surgery but recently returning to fitness. Manchester City goalkeeper Angus Gunn will also be training with the group, as will stand-by players Lewis Cook, James Tarkowski and Jake Livermore. Adam Lallana is still with the Liverpool squad preparing for next Saturday’s Champions League fine.