KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- England surprised themselves and their fans by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia. This was expected to be a springboard to a bright new era after the anti-climactic reign of Roy Hodgson. Instead England have lost their way.

Losing the Euro final to Italy only on penalties suggested that manager Gareth Southgate and his team were making significant progress. Instead the past 14 months have proved that to have been an illusion. England are in crisis – whether major or minor depends which newspaper you read – but certainly Southgate has lost his magic touch.

Southgate’s team have now gone five games without a win for the first time since 2014. Equally concerning is that Friday’s 1-0 defeat by Italy in Milan means England 450 minutes without scoring a gool from open play. Consequently they have already been relegated from Group A of the Nations League even ahead of tonight’s game.

Southgate: Pressure point

Failure to beat Germany would leave England with their longest winless run in competitive matches since 1958. This does not mean Southgate’s job is in danger. The Football Association has a high regard for the 52-year-old who has been working with the current squad since the youth teams and the under-21s.

But the style and approach which succeeded with impressionable, ambitious teenagers is not working with highly-sophisticated, high-profile professionals. Perhaps Southgate has been out of club football for too long. His last managerial job ended at Middlesbrough in 2006. Critics accuse him of tactical indecision, of an inability to make effect use of substitutes and failure to conjure up game-turning changes of tactics.

Southgate is unfortunate in that coaching trends and standards in the domestic game are being set, week-in and week-out, by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte. These are international superstars in their own sphere and Southgate does not compare with any of them. Worse, both players and fans know it.

He has lost not only matches but the insight to understand and explain why it has all gone wrong.

On Friday night Southgate said: “I’ve seen every other England manager go through this. I know how it works. Everything turns so quickly. You are judged by results and that’s that. Nobody enjoys being booed by the supporters but whenever you have a difficult run, it’s always going to be the manager who deals with it. But I do believe I’m the right person to take the team into the World Cup. I think it’s more stable that way.”

Those words hinted that Southgate himself had considered the alternatives — not taking England to the World Cup and whether stepping down would be better for his players.

Injuries have not helped. No1 goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is unfit and tigerish midfielder Kalvyn Phillips may miss the Qatar with a shoulder injury. Yet every manager has to cope with the injuries.

Anyway, most other World Cup managers would envy Southgate the blessings of a team with Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden to create openings for Harry Kane.

Early in his reign Southgate inspired team spirit by arranging training weekends with the Royal Marines, by sending his players personal letters and showing them inspirational videos. But all that confidence has drained away.