England boss Gareth Southgate was too shy to ask wife of 23 years Alison out then went on secret dates in Tesco car park – The Sun

AS the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman.

And in Alison, England boss Gareth Southgate has his rock that has stood by him since his days as a professional footballer to the man leading our charge at Euro 2020.


She has been married to Gareth, 50, for 23 years – and his commitment to her and his family seemed to have rubbed onto the team.

Indeed, during the 2018 World Cup Rebekah Vardy praised the boss's "family first" protocol for the World Cup by allowing players to spend time with their loved ones after matches.

He even lifted the sex ban before games, as we saw the likes of Harry Maguire and Jordan Pickford cuddle up to their partners in the stands.

This time round, due to strict coronavirus protocols and the team having to remain in a bio-secure bubble, the Wags have been banned from England's Hilton Hotel base at St George's Park.

But, if we weren't in these times, you can bet Southgate would've put family first.


SHY GARETH

Gareth's commitment to his own family values and those of his players are thought to be all down to Alison, 54.

The couple met while she worked as a shop assistant in a clothing boutique, while Gareth was playing for South London side Crystal Palace in his early twenties.

The footballer, who was often mocked for his big nose, used to pretend to be visiting the shop to add to his wardrobe – but it was really the pretty blonde behind the till he was there to see.

And it took him two long years to pluck up the courage to actually ask her out.

But unfortunately for Gareth, she was living with a boyfriend at the time. So it would be even longer until they got together.

Amusingly, after his first attempt failed, the former Middlesbrough boss came across Alison and her then boyfriend at a restaurant a week later.


Having heard rumours that they were on the verge of splitting up, Gareth gave her his number when her ex wasn't looking.

Incredibly, his bold move paid off and she called him that evening.

In his 2003 autobiography, Gareth revealed in the early days they used to sneak to a Tesco car park for dates to keep their new relationship secret from her ex.

The couple went on to move in together in Birmingham when the defender was playing for Aston Villa and they were married in the Parish Church of St Nicholas, Crawley, in 1997.

TILL DEATH DO US PART

Alison has been by Gareth's side through thick and thin.

She was there to console him after his infamous missed penalty against Germany in the Euro 96 championships, which saw England booted out of the competition.


She was also sidled up to him when he was offered the £3m a year job as England boss in 2017.

Today, the couple live in the very grand six-bedroom Elizabethan manor house, built in the 16th century and set in beautiful grounds in North Yorkshire.

They reportedly splashed £3.75million on it and it's home to their two children, Mia, 22, and Flynn, 18

In his book, Southgate revealed family life has kept him sane from the stresses of football.

"On Saturday evening, our children are not too bothered whether Dad’s team have won or lost," he wrote.

"Neither does Alison fret too much about football, and this is how I like it.

"Regardless of the result, it is up to me to ensure that no one’s evening is ruined because of things that happened on a football field.

"The agonising waits until Alison and the kids are asleep."


PRIVATE FAMILY

Alison lives discreetly and prefers to avoid the headlines.

She has managed to keep her personal life private, which has been very difficult when your husband is manager of the country's national football team.

While of course they're wealthy, Alison shares few holiday snaps on social media, that suggest they live a more modest life.

Mia is in her final year at the University of Edinburgh studying Social Anthropology, while Flynn goes to school in Yorkshire.

And Gareth has talked about the importance of maintaining a normal parent-child relationship, despite his time-sapping and full-on job.

He told the Standard in 2017: “You do have to try to find a balance because my focus inevitably gets drawn towards making this team as successful as we can and driving them to be the best team in the world."


"But I’m also a dad and a husband."

He also told the paper that while his family are big fans of Love Island, he can't stomach it.

Luckily for him this summer, he will be missing it this year as he's otherwise occupied trying to turn the

Three Lions into Euro champions. You can bet if he does, he will dedicate it to his wife.

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