England vs Germany will help determine whether Gareth Southgate is a triumph or turnip

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There is an excellent documentary on Sky next week about the career of Terry ­Venables.

Or rather, the careers. The colourful tale of the footballer, big band singer, crime fiction writer, clothes shop owner and wannabe football club owner, makes for fascinating viewing.

He wasn’t a bad manager either. His Crystal Palace side were tipped to be the Team of the 80s, he won La Liga at ­Barcelona and only lost a ­European Cup final on ­penalties, lifted the FA Cup with Spurs and legend has it he would have won Euro 96 for England if Gazza’s sliding boot had been two sizes bigger.

The film shows he did a sterling job turning England from a laughing stock under Graham Taylor into a team that could, at times, outplay the best in Europe.

Gareth Southgate's England legacy could come down to Tuesday night's clash with Germany
(Image: UEFA via Getty Images)

It ends with a sense of disbelief that the FA, ­fearing blowback from a looming court case, refused to extend his contract past Euro 96, so he went into the tournament knowing every game could be his last.

The stupidity of that ­decision has rankled with many England fans ever since, especially as no coach that followed went as deep into a major tournament – until Gareth Southgate, who also reached a semi-final, in Russia, and has thus ­deservedly enjoyed a relatively uncritical time in charge.

So much so that, unlike ­Venables, he has been assured by the FA that whatever ­happens in these Euros he will lead England into next year’s World Cup.

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But among the wider nation the jury is still out on whether he has the experience and ­tactical nous to win England a major trophy.

His results and the way he has handled himself have set him apart from recent ­England bosses such as Steve McClaren and Roy Hodgson, who were out of their depth.

But the nagging doubt ­remains that he has still to pass the international test that will define him. ­Qualification for tournaments in these days of bloated groups is a given, and ­although he reached the last four in Russia, he was defeated when he came up against a couple of decent teams in Belgium and Croatia.

Graham Taylor was infamously depicted as a turnip on the front page of a national newspaper
(Image: Getty Images)

A year later, having reached the Nations League finals, he was knocked out in the first game against Holland.

Almost five years into the job you get the feeling Tuesday could be the game that
defines Southgate as England ­manager.

So far his work in this ­tournament – group topped, no goals conceded – has been steady but there are growing mumblings about his lack of adventure.

On Tuesday, in a knockout game at Wembley against ­serious opposition, he will face real scrutiny. As many a ­previous England manager has discovered, playing a do-or-die game in the ground where England won in ’66 leaves no room for failure.

Win it and he will not only prove that England are on the right path under his ­leadership, he will have a ­decent route to go one better than Terry Venables and make the final.

Lose and the accusations of blowing a virtual home ­tournament by failing to ­unleash an exciting crop of young attackers will rain down on him. And it could be a long way back.

It’s not the time for Southgate to feel secure in his job, knowing whatever happens he’s still going to Qatar, but to feel like Venables did in those do-or-die games in ’96. That it could be his last in charge. So have no fear of the opposition, get on the front foot and go for it.

As the last England player to kick a ball for Venables, sadly straight at the keeper, Southgate more than most knows the court of English ­football judgement can be brutal.

Tuesday will go a long way to defining whether this ­thoroughly decent man goes down as a triumph or a turnip.

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