Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Search For England’s Next Victim (Manager)

Apologies for my recent lack of posting but my work for That's A Goal ( has seriously sapped my time. However you should visit their great site almost immediately if you would like to be privy to some fantastic football betting tips.

This is a post I wrote a while ago after England had qualified for Euro 2012. I pondered who would dare to step into the shoes of Fabio Capello when he left after this summer's tournament. As we now know that will not be happening as Fabio jumped ship long before he boarded the plane to Poland. As the search for England's next charge is happening as we speak let's have a retrospective look back at the F.A.'s various options:

Along with Sir Alex and perhaps one or two others, Fabio Capello came to England as one of Europe’s greatest managers. Foreign yes but no English manager could have come close to his managerial achievements. He leant a solid amount of English in a very short amount of time and promised to usher in a new period of English football. A period of discipline where players would be picked on form and not reputation. Players would have to fight for their places, everyone of them.

A stellar qualification campaign followed and all was good. Then there was the shambles that was the 2010 World Cup. Player selections, tactics on and off the pitch. It was an embarrassment and things haven’t exactly improved since then.

Too often were players picked because of their name. Frank Lampard has poorly performed for England for an age but was only recently dropped. Too often was Capello inconsistent in disciplining his players. To strip John Terry of the captaincy to give back to him a year later just sends out the completely wrong message. Too often has Capello been stubborn in team selection. Ignoring pleas of fans and pundits alike he has stuck with an ageing team often playing his better players out of position.

Also, has nobody actually noticed that Capello’s English has never really improved? He learnt a commendable amount to start with and then doesn’t really appear to have learnt anymore since. The man is being paid nearly £6 million a year to manage a team about 8 times a year. He should be completely fluent now surely? This may not seem like a huge issue but it affects his communication with his team and just smacks of a lack of commitment.

It is no surprise that the masses will not be sad to see Capello leave our shores after Euro 2012. Who though will replace him? Who is the next man to take up the seemingly mammoth task of turning our national team into something we can be proud of?

The consensus is that our next man should be English. He should understand the English way of life, the expectations on the national team. Step forward Harry Redknapp.

Harry never represented the national team as a player. His reputation as a manager though is second to no Englishman. Having built his reputation with long spells at Bournemouth and then West Ham, Harry then transformed Portsmouth from Championship dwellers into Premiership mainstays and FA Cup winners. This then lead him to current club Tottenham where he took them to the Champions League proper, something that hadn’t been managed by a team outside the traditional ‘Big Four’ for just under a decade. On top of this he has spoken in glowing terms about the England job itself, the man actually wants the job.

Redknapp likes to his teams to play attacking football and he has a good record of blooding in young, talented players. It appears he also doesn’t mind speaking his mind, something I think would be refreshing and beneficial for an England manager. The fact remains though that he hasn’t really ever challenged for the league title or faced the kind of pressure that the England job carries. Spurs’ showings in the Champions League last season suggests though that pressure is something Harry could enjoy.

Whether he could command the players respect, a point where Capello has somewhat failed, would remain to be seen. As far as home-grown managers go though, Harry is the best option.

What if the manager was not English but British? David Moyes would be an option but a Scotsman in charge of England probably isn’t going to happen. What then about Martin O’Neill? O’Neill interviewed for the post five years ago when the FA overlooked him for er...Steve McClaren. Is it possible for us to get a new FA as well?

O’Neill has done a quality job wherever he has gone and if he had of been better financially backed at Villa then perhaps they too would of reached the Champions League. He is known for his motivational skills and getting the best out of his players. I think we could all agree that a lack of motivation has too long been a problem for England’s big stars. O’Neill is no yes man either and would not be daunted by punishing players who do not obey his rules.

If O’Neill is appointed next year he will have been out of management for two years. He will be a gamble and the FA aren’t exactly the most daring of people. I think though it is a challenge that he would relish.

Something that the FA hasn't quite grasped is that managing a national team is starkly different to managing a club team. Tactics, team selection, man-management, it’s all different. So why not go for someone with international experience, someone who knows how it works.

Roy Hodgson would be the main English choice on this front. Whilst a fine manager I think the FA will look for a bigger name. His spell at Liverpool doesn’t help his cause. Guus Hiddink certainly fits this bill. Speaks good English and bags of international experience. It seems pretty apparent though that we will not see another foreigner managing the Three Lions for a while.

Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson blogged a few weeks ago putting forth another candidate, see Not an Englishman but someone who knows the English game throughout and has been very successful in the Premier League. A certain Arsene Wenger.

Wenger has always shown more of a liking for bringing in younger players than gambling in the transfer market. This is what managing the national team is all about. He also likes to play very attractive football, the likes of which we see from our Spanish friends.

The Frenchman though will not be taking up this role. He has shown he is not one who reacts well to criticism so why would he put himself in a position where criticism will be one of his only friends? Wenger will also be astutely aware that the current England crop will not have the talents and technique that is required to play his kind of football. The job would be a losing battle for Arsene and he will be all too aware of this.

Is the manager to blame? Should we not be finding a new squad? The amount of money and status that some players have at their clubs suggests that the international scene means little to them. It is just not as important. It has been argued that some players see a major tournament as a free holiday and that they care little about their country’s fortunes. But surely the likes of Spain and Germany have similar players who have massive statuses at their own clubs YET still love performing for their country. It will be up to the new manager to change this viewpoint of some of the players or actually change the players themselves.

Whoever gets the nod from the FA has an arduous task to say the least. They will need to be thick-skinned but also flexible and willing to listen to others around them. They need to motivate and turn our national team into a hard-working one, a side we can actually be proud of from time to time. It’s an extremely tough prospect there is just no denying it. At least the new man though won’t be intimidated by the triumphs (or lack of) made by their successors. Unless Fabio surprises us all next summer. I won't hold my breath though.