Bore Off Gareth, England Wants A Wags Netflix Doc

The England manager is missing an open goal

Harry Maguire and Fern Hawkins

by Samuel Fishwick |

Gareth Southgate is used to making bold selection calls: from which waistcoat to wear to whether to keep the much-fancied Jack Grealish out of the starting XI.

But the England manager’s patrician attitude to a rumoured Netflix documentary crew, set to follow the partners of England’s buoyant boys at the Qatar World Cup this winter, strikes us as mean-spirited and a missed opportunity.

‘It’s not my cup of tea really,’ Gareth said of the doc in the build-up to England’s final Nation’s League game. ‘I’d be surprised if the group of players we’ve got would have an interest in that, because they’ve wanted to focus on football. The focus in Russia and last summer was all about the players and everything they do. We’ve never had any issues.’

Bah humbug. Sure, as Gareth notes, the environment around the England camp is much better than the heady days of Baden Baden in 2006. Then, Cheryl Tweedy, Colleen Rooney, Victoria Beckham and their bling-heavy shopping sprees sent the tabloids into a frenzy.

Not anymore. ‘We like to involve the families,’ Gareth said. ‘I actually think the term ‘Wags’ is quite disrespectful, it’s their partners and family; I don’t like the term. We want them to feel welcome and we invited them into the hotel when we could in Russia: mums, dads and kids.

‘It’s a great feeling when you’ve the kids in, especially. It changes the dynamic of the hotel. We couldn’t do that last year [at Euro 2020] because of Covid. It’s one big family and I think everyone recognises that part of what we do has been very good over the last couple of years.’

If Gareth can’t trust the players by now, what’s gone wrong? As the great man himself said, this England camp has a special aura. He is right to say the term ‘Wag’ smacks of a seedy ‘90s throwback. So, why not reclaim the narrative?

Today’s partners are far cry from the megawattage of Coleen and Cheryl in their pomp. Harry Kane’s wife, Katie Goodland, is a sports science graduate. Harry Maguire’s wife, Fern Hawkins, is a physiotherapist with a first class honours degree. Raheem Sterling’s girlfriend, Paige Milian, has a property empire and an accountancy qualification. Meanwhile, Reece James’ partner Mia-Florence McClenaghan has a law degree. (There is some stardust: lest we forget, Love Island's Dani Dyer is dating England newbie Jarrod Bowen.)

This special group of players have shown time and again that they are a force for social good in this country. The logic for a fly-on-the-wall documentary is surely there for all to see. From standing up to racism to Marcus Rashford’s Free School Meals campaign, our sports stars are proven role models who wear that responsibility better than one of Gareth's M&S suits. At a difficult time for the country, the more we see of them, the better.

Think a tag-along documentary crew might stop football coming home? Look to title-winners at Man City in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary (Tottenham and Arsenal admittedly put in slightly ropier showings, finishing 7th and 5th in their fly-on-the-wall seasons).

Gareth was once asked his favourite film. ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,’ he said. ‘An everyday tale of football folk.’ It would be nice to prove that England’s present day heroes have come a long way from the madhouse of yesteryear. And, frankly, it will make for a nice break from Winter Love Island.

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