Ex-Middlesbrough striker Leroy Lita has revealed that it doesn’t surprise him that his former manager at the Riverside, Gareth Southgate, has become the England boss, speaking exclusively to Football League World.
Southgate was the manager that signed Lita for the North East club on a free transfer in July 2009 as they looked to bounce back from Premier League relegation the season before.
The striker would prove a shrewd signing for the Teessiders, scoring 20 goals and adding 12 assists in his two seasons at the club, but he didn’t play under the current England manager for long.
Southgate was sacked by Boro in October 2009, which was something of a shock move as his side were second in the Championship at the time.
That meant Lita had just three months under the 50-year-old but even that was enough for him to discern just how far he could go as a coach.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Football League World, the former Boro striker revealed it was clear then that he was the sort of character that could take on a big role like the England job.
“It doesn’t surprise me [that he’s gone on to become the England manager] because of the way he manages and coaches,” explained Lita. “He gets on with everyone.”
“They want to do well for him. He’s a top bloke, he’s one of those people that, I don’t know anyone that didn’t get on with him.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s the England manager. He’s a good man.”
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It was four years after his Boro sacking before Southgate returned to coaching, taking charge of England’s U21s in August 2013.
He remained part of the national setup until he was appointed the caretaker boss of the national team after the dismissal of Sam Allardyce in September 2016
An impressive spell in that role saw him get the job full-time in November that year and he took England to the World Cup semi-final in 2018.
Expectation is high ahead of the 2021 European Championships, with part – if not potentially all – of the tournament set to be held in the UK, and England supporters will be hoping that the coach who impressed Lita back in 2009 can end their long wait for a major international trophy.