Gareth Southgate is fighting a nonstop battle with English delusion | Barney Ronay

Verdict on England’s manager will be shaped by the next three months so it is time to ask: are his team actually good?Welcome to the reckoning up. Global sport has spent much of the past two years in a state of jet lag, frazzled by bubbles and firebreaks, by dates that aren’t really dates, events that seem to be taking place in the wrong timeline. Well, here comes the centrepiece: Qatar 2022, the one non-negotiable, the fixed point around which this state of flux has revolved.Check the watch in your pocket, still set to Standard Tournament Time, and it’s actually April. The World Cup is – cabin crew, seats for landing – less than two months away. And the lead-in kicks off this week with a round of Nations League fixtures, first steps towards a final in Doha on 18 December. At the end of which, red-eyed and jittery, the season is free to stumble back through arrivals and straight into the Christmas fixture list.