Gareth Southgate is confident England’s humiliation at the hands of Hungary will help fuel their winter World Cup charge rather than leave damaging scars.
The afterglow from last summer’s unforgettable run to the Euro 2020 final has well and truly gone, with fans turning on the Three Lions boss and his players just five months out from Qatar.
“You don’t know what you’re doing” echoed around Molineux as Hungary inflicted a 4-0 loss on Tuesday evening – England’s biggest home defeat since 1928.
Southgate is in the eye of the storm after the “most difficult night” of his near six years in charge, which ended a winless run of four Nations League matches in 11 days.
“I’ve been in football for 35 years and I’ve seen how this works,” he said. “I am a romantic in one sense, but I’m not in many others.
“For sure you remember the messages you get tonight more than the ones when things are going well without a doubt and you will never forget the tough nights and how it felt.
“And, you know, making sure that you register where people were with and against you on those nights but you don’t carry it with you as a scar. It hardens you.”
Southgate knows such scrutiny and pressure is part and parcel of what used to be known as ‘the impossible job’, with the England boss quick to point to the flak his predecessors dealt with.
Back then the Three Lions shirt weighed heavy on players and Southgate hopes this group do not feel inhibited representing their country.
“This group of players have given the best outcomes for 50 years,” he said. “This is a period of English football that everybody should be really happy with.
“It’s important that they stick with a group of young players because they need it, they need the support. They need that all the time.
“I think you saw the anxiety start to creep in a bit tonight. But also, you know, this is the reality of professional football.
“It’s not all sweetness and light, and they’ve got to use those experiences to fuel themselves and harden themselves. And that will help them in the long term.”