The England boss came under scrutiny for certain decisions he made in last night’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy and has been questioned on a number of occasions throughout the tournament.
Supporters were unhappy with Southgate’s lack of urgency to make substitutions against Roberto Mancini’s side, as well as his penalty taker selections.
Many felt introducing Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho late in extra-time for the sole purpose of taking a penalty was a poor choice, in addition to making 19-year-old Bukayo Saka England’s fifth in line for a spot-kick.
All three players missed from 12 yards to call Southgate’s tactics into question, but Neville believes such “nonsense” claims are unfair on the England boss.
“I saw after the game people saying Southgate should have made more substitutions, these players should have taken the penalties; these are the same people who have been saying that he should have played a different system against Germany, that he should not have played Kieran Trippier against Croatia, that he should have played a more attacking system,” the former Manchester United defender told Sky Sports.
“I genuinely believe that Southgate and his players navigated their way to this final in the only way they could and that was to be a little more pragmatic – put the two holding midfield players in front of defence; if it needed to be a back five, it was because of the shape or quality of the other team.
“He found a way to get to the final. Sometimes we all like to be purists at times and want him to find a way to play all those attacking players but I don’t think England would have got to the final if they had gone punch to punch with some of the nations they came across along the way,” continued Neville.
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“I think Gareth knew he had to play a certain way to get to the final and he did that. At the end it comes down to small margins, details like penalties. This is not the time to be criticising tactics and substitutions.
“The reality is that Southgate has proved so many of us wrong – not just in this tournament but over the last two years – about decisions he has made – it would be a nonsense now to start suggesting we are right about substitutions and penalty-takers when most of us have not seen this in our lifetimes.”
Speaking after last night’s match, Southgate admitted that he took a “risk” by bringing on Rashford and Sancho to take penalties.
“That’s always the risk that you run, but they’ve been by far the best and to get all those attacking players on the pitch you have to do it late,” he told ITV.
“It was a gamble, but if we gambled early we may have lost the game in normal time anyway. We did start well, I think our system worked well against theirs.”