England manager Gareth Southgate made a surprise visit to a Leeds school to support Channel 4’s efforts to inspire the next generation of broadcast professionals.
A group of 30 students from Lawnswood School were stunned to find themselves acting as journalists at a mock press conference in front of England boss.
And during their questioning Southgate revealed he had just one sporting ambition on his mind – to lead England to victory at the UEFA Euros at Germany next year: “Right now I have one goal – to become European Champions.”
The Year 10 and 11 students were taking part in a Channel 4 4Schools initiative encouraging young people to consider the wide range of careers available in the world of broadcasting. And they had no idea the day would conclude with a face-to-face meeting with the England manager.
Southgate agreed to take part in the special development day, organised by 4Schools, which focused on sport and careers in sports broadcasting. And he offered to put himself at the mercy of a press conference spearheaded by the Lawnswood School students.
As well as answering questions about leading the national squad, dealing with pressure, his main goal and England’s forthcoming matches, he also offered the students advice on everything from GCSEs and working life.
Stressing the importance of teamwork and co-operation, Southgate said: “Pretty much everything you’re going to do in life, you’re going to do with other people, playing sport teaches you about working together and to be successful in life, it’s very hard to do it on your own, you need other people with you.
“Sometimes there might be people who irritate you and you have to find a way to get on with people, even though you might not be best friends with people, finding a way to work with them is really important.”
Prior to coming face to face with Southgate, the students had been briefed by Channel 4’s Head of Sport Pete Andrews who explained what happens behind the scenes to broadcast a sporting event and the wide range of roles involved.
Pete said: “It’s so important to open young people’s eyes to the opportunities available in broadcasting which is why the work of 4Schools is so important.
“Enabling the Lawnswood School students to hold a press conference and quiz the England manager was amazing and we are so grateful to the FA and to Gareth for making it happen.”
Lawnswood School Headteacher Jo Bell said: “This has been just fantastic and so generous of Gareth to give up his time. It’s been an amazing opportunity for our students, they will have learned so much from this and the day will have provided some brilliant inspiration for their futures.”
Lawnswood School student Matthew, 16, whose dream is to become a sports commentator, said: “When Gareth Southgate walked in I couldn’t believe it, I would never have expected him to even be at our school. He is so down to earth, such a nice person.”
Fellow student Emil, 14, said: “Normally I’d have been in French or English but instead I was with Gareth Southgate! I thought it was crazy when he walked through the door, I thought it might be a player from a lower division, or maybe even a Leeds player, not the England manager! He was really interesting and a lot of what he talked about applied to what we do in school. It was so cool.”
During the students’ press conference, Southgate also discussed England’s forthcoming qualifiers, which will be shown live and exclusive on Channel 4, against Malta (June 16) and North Macedonia (June 19).
Southgate said: “These games are a really interesting challenge for us because Malta will have a world ranking which is really low and England have beaten Malta every time we’ve played them. The most important thing is our mentality for the game because if both teams play at their normal level, England should win but complacency can really hurt you as a team.”
And Southgate warned that the North Macedonia match at Old Trafford on June 19 would not be as straight forward as many might believe explain that England had played them four times, winning two away games by a single goal and drawing both home matches.
Southgate explained: “Remarkably England have never beaten North Macedonia at home. North Macedonia also knocked Italy out of the last World Cup so there is no room for complacency, we have to make sure our mentality is right and we play at our highest level.”
Asked for his advice as the students prepare for GCSEs, he sympathised and said: “I’ve been through it so I know how you feel and I would say all you can do is to prepare as well as you can, the more preparation you do the better chance you have to succeed.”