England’s rise from laughing stock to being within a penalty kick of ending the country’s interminable wait for a major trophy will play out on the stage of the National Theatre in a new production focussed on head coach Gareth Southgate.
“Dear England”, written by James Graham, will explore the nation’s troubled relationship with the penalty shootout including Southgate’s notorious miss for England at Euro 1996.
Southgate took charge of England in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s rapid removal and with fans still reeling from a loss to Iceland at the Euro 2016 championship.
Since then the former Crystal Palace midfielder has restored the public’s faith in the national team with a run to 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020 where they lost to Italy on a penalty shootout.
Graham describes Southgate’s reign as a ‘gentle revolution’.
“I think what has happened to the men’s England football team over the past six years has been quietly extraordinary,” the award-winning writer told BBC News.
“It’s been humming along in the background, but we’re only starting to really understand now Gareth’s gentle revolution.”
The play, which opens in June and has Joseph Fiennes playing the lead role, takes its name from an open letter Southgate wrote to fans in 2021 and explores themes of national identity in the wake of Brexit and racist abuse suffered by players.