London (AFP) – Gareth Southgate said Monday he was excited to sign a two-year contract extension as England manager after an “incredible experience” during his five years at the helm.

The 51-year-old’s deal was set to expire after next year’s World Cup but he has been rewarded by the Football Association after England reached the Euro 2020 final — their best performance at a major tournament for 55 years.

Southgate, who also masterminded a run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has transformed his team into serious contenders after years of underachievement.

“I’d like to say how excited we are — the last five years have been an incredible experience,” said the former Middlesbrough boss, whose side last week sealed qualification for the World Cup in Qatar.

“We can see what’s possible with the existing squad and some of the players coming through our age-group teams. We are grateful for the support of the FA.

“We felt it was important to qualify (before signing) so there was no question on focus. We are looking forward to the next few years to make some new memories.”

Southgate, who will now oversee England’s Euro 2024 campaign, told reporters his side had made great progress.

“We have to make sure the team constantly evolves,” he said. “We are now in a group of teams we believe can genuinely challenge. Six, seven years ago we went with hope, but now we can be genuinely positive. We know expectation is higher but that’s good, the team is better than they were three years ago.”

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Gareth and (assistant) Steve (Holland, who has also signed a new deal) have built a really strong culture with the players and support team and are best placed to take this young team forward.

“The success comes with revised expectations. We used to celebrate qualifying, now we expect to reach the latter stages.”

– Five years –

Southgate, a former England international defender, took the England reins in 2016 after Sam Allardyce’s reign ended after just one match following a newspaper sting.

Months earlier Roy Hodgson’s England suffered humiliation at Euro 2016, crashing out at the hands of minnows Iceland in the last 16.

Southgate took his young team to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup — the first time they had reached the last for in 28 years — and finished third in the UEFA Nations League the following year.

His side, combining the attacking talent of the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling with a solid defensive base, came agonisingly close to ending their trophy drought at this year’s Euro 2020 but lost to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

England booked their place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar with a 10-0 hammering of San Marino last week to top their group.

Expectations are high that England, now with invaluable experience under the belts, can add a second World Cup to their only previous major tournament win in 1966.