Arise then Sir Gareth, soon to be Baron Southgate of Wembley in the Borough of Brent and of the Lusail Stadium in the State of Qatar where you did win the 2022 World Cup for Glorious En-ger-land by coming off the bench in your three-piece suit and lucky Three Lions tanga briefs to score a last minute overhead kick into the top left corner.

Actually don’t arise. Stay unrisen. Stay asleep and keep to your bed because all of the above is only a dream. Just your sub-conscious acting out a sort of wish-fulfilment fantasy.

In fact the waking reality for the England manager couldn’t be more different following Tuesday’s crushing four-nil home defeat to Hungary in the Nations League, the national team’s heaviest loss since a five-one drubbing by Scotland at Wembley in 1928.

Adding to the historical feel of the occasion, this was Hungary’s first win in England since 1953, when Real Madrid’s legendary Ferenc Puskas led the Magnificent Magyars to a famous six-three victory at the same storied venue. That too came in a significant year. The Queen had not long ascended the throne and Old Blighty was top of the world – literally – having just conquered Everest. Well, it was a Kiwi and his Nepalese sherpa who did the leg work and the heavy lifting, but England still took the credit.

Adding to the overall sense of weirdness, Tuesday’s match was broadcast live on Channel 4. Late night poker, sure – but since when did they show football? Since someone flogged them the rights to the Nations League, that’s when. As for that unloved competition, it’s like one of those alien spaceships which lands outside a small American town in a sci-fi movie. Nobody’s very sure what it is, or why it’s there, or when it will go away – or whether, when it does leave, it will take Jacob Rees-Mogg home with it.

But none of that alters the fact that England were given a doing and that long before the final whistle both sets of supporters were making their feelings felt. I’m not sure what the Hungarian for ‘You lucky ******* it should have been five’ is, but I’m pretty sure something like it was blasting out of the away section. And I know exactly what the home fans were singing: ‘You don’t know what you’re doing.’

True? Not really. It may irk Scottish football fans but Southgate’s record as England manager is good. Generally, he does know what he’s doing. He took England to the final of the 2020 Euros, remember, albeit helped by home advantage. But the loss marks a dismal run for the English and comes on the heels of a one-nil loss in Hungary on Platinum Jubilee weekend, and a drab nil-nil draw with Italy. Southgate’s lads are currently bottom of their Nations League group. Their stats? Played four, won none, and they were lucky to get the none. Boom boom.

“It is a chastening night,” the manager said afterwards. “My predecessors have had nights like this. I have watched them from the sofa as a kid and watched as a player, and I recognise those difficult times.”

He’s not wrong and those nights have made for some unappetising headlines for whoever is the incumbent. “Swedes 2 Turnips 1” is a famous example. The loss to Sweden in the Euro 92 championships saw then-manager Graham Taylor christened Turnip Taylor and often pictured as that vegetable, not the sort of image destined to foster dressing room unity or allow a chap to go about his business with even a semblance of dignity. Cruel to turnips as well.

From our northern eyrie we watch all this with a degree of emotions. Amusement mostly. A touch of schadenfreude. Mind you our own Doyen of the Dugout, Steve ‘Chuckles’ Clarke, came in for criticism himself recently, so there but for the grace of God and all that. But at the time of writing the Tartan Army will still have fresh in their minds last Tuesday’s victory over the powerhouse of international football that is Armenia. Doubtless there are still one or two kilted warriors stoating about the country’s capital, Yerezan, looking to keep the party going and having a good gloat at England’s expense. Fair play.

But back to Gareth Southgate, who has not yet been knighted or ennobled but who was awarded an OBE in 2019. He is a curious and intriguing figure, at least to these Caledonian eyes. With his tailored suits, measured speech and quiet sense of gravitas, he could be the Remainer Tory MP it’s OK to like. In fact he isn’t above dipping into the world of politics and public affairs when called upon to do so. A month into the first UK lockdown, in April 2020, he made it known he had agreed to a 30% pay cut. When Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford engaged the government in tweet-to-tweet combat over the issue of free school meals, Southgate was right behind the player. On his watch, England players have also had to deal with issues of racism and again Southgate has been there to vocalize the team’s unified stance.

“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate,” he wrote in an open letter to fans ahead of the 2020 Euros – this after England fans had jeered the team for taking the knee during a pre-tournament friendly in Middlesborough.

Southgate has even poured cold water on a mooted Netflix fly-on-the-wall documentary which would have followed the England players’ wives and girlfriends – WAGS in common parlance – during the upcoming Qatar World Cup (the one he dreams about winning). “It’s not my cup of tea, really,” he said last week. “I actually think the term WAGs is quite disrespectful. It’s their partners and family. I don’t like the term.”

Southgate has been England manager since shortly after Brexit, so about the same length of time as Boris Johnson has been a thorn in the collective bahookie. But the contrast between the two couldn’t be starker. One is a sartorial shambles and a rampant egotist to whom the single word most commonly applied by the British public is ‘liar’ (as revealed in a word cloud conducted by pollsters JL Partners. ‘Buffoon’ and ‘idiot’ also loomed large). The other is, well, the England manager: a little dull, perhaps, but dependable, solid and righteous in his way.

And as the Johnson government spins through a series of policy stunts which have seen it flout basic tenets of international law and brought it into conflict with the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union – as its shambling head boy shrugs off yet another indictment of his integrity and fitness for office – you start to wish someone with a moral compass had a seat at the table. Someone like … well OK, perhaps that’s a little fanciful. Running a country of 65 million people is one thing, ensuring 11 pampered millionaires score more goals than the other side quite another. But you get the point. There are figures in British public life whose dignified behaviour stands as a corrective to, and a comment on, the worst excesses of this cruel, crass Johnsonian era. I’d say Gareth Southgate is one of them.

Perhaps the next time there’s a chorus of ‘You don’t what you’re doing’ it’ll be from MPs on the Tory back benches. And by then perhaps Sir Gareth really will be in the House of Lords and it’ll be Scotland riding high after a victorious World Cup campaign.

Dream on, eh?