Tuesday 18 December 2018 6:51 pm

Trevor Steven: Gareth Southgate tops my football roll of honour for 2018

It has been a year when quality coaching came to the fore in football. The World Cup and the Premier League is full of top bosses who are getting the best out of their players. Here are my highlights.

Southgate shines in Russia

Where else to start but with England’s efforts at the World Cup? The Three Lions’ run to the semi-finals was a major achievement and a big step in the right direction – and their campaign was led by Gareth Southgate.

The manager had a clear formula, made bold selections of young, talented and hungry players and fostered a positive atmosphere around the side. He was the strongest component and deserves all the plaudits he’s received.

England had a relatively easy group but did what they had to before getting on a roll. Harry Kane’s goals, their effectiveness at set pieces and ability to overcome penalties took them to the last four in Russia.

We shouldn’t get carried away but under Southgate England appear to be on the road to better things.

Deschamps’ leadership

I played with Didier Deschamps at Marseille and as a player he never jumped out at me as manager material. But having captained France to the 1998 World Cup, he brought a second trophy home in the summer as a coach and must be applauded.

The way he moulded together a young squad, got the best out of the stars and handled himself was extremely impressive. France are packed full of talent, but they needed a strong leader to handle things, select the side and maintain the focus.

Man City magic

Before the World Cup it was all about Manchester City, who tore up the record books in coasting home to the Premier League title with 100 points, 32 wins and the best-ever goal difference, among many other firsts. It really was phenomenal stuff.

Pep Guardiola is the man behind the machine who play the best football the Premier League has ever seen.

He inherited some fantastic players, but it’s the way he’s recruited, coached and implemented his philosophy on the squad which marks him out as one of the sport’s pioneers.

Raheem Sterling has gone to a new level under his tutelage; he’s cleverer and more refined. Bernardo Silva is following in David Silva’s footsteps and Leroy Sane is blossoming. Guardiola has lived up to his billing.

Stunning Salah

The stand-out player in 2018 has been Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who struck a rich vein of form and simply never let go of it.

The Egyptian’s unerringly accurate finishing, positioning, speed and deftness makes him a joy to watch. To think Chelsea had him from 2014 to 2016 but didn’t make the most of him is staggering.

Salah has so quickly become the go-to man for Liverpool. He is a reliable source of something exceptional and was a large part of the Reds’ run to the Champions League final.

Burnley’s bounce

Arsene Wenger bowed out after 22 years at Arsenal to usher in a new era and Mauricio Pochettino continues to do an excellent job despite distractions at Tottenham, but it’s a different top flight boss I want to highlight.

Sean Dyche’s job to finish seventh and get Burnley into the Europa League was remarkable for a club with a fraction of the budget of some of their rivals.

It may not have been sustainable, but what he did reminded me of Leicester’s miracle and proved once again that smaller clubs can upset the order if managed well.


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