If you remained in the bubble of the media, you may be persuaded to believe that the appointment of Harry Redknapp as the next England manager is inevitable. I want to have a look at whether that is inevitable and whether that is right and what on earth happened with Capello.
The Fall of Gabio Capello:
In the surface it is a straightforward situation. Capello felt his role had been undermined by the decision of the FA to remove the captaincy from John Terry. His stance which had been consistent revolved around the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mantra. A noble perspective if somewhat naive to the implications of that decision for hte hassle that would follow both from his squad and from the media. For him as a proud man, to have his authority undermined in such a way was unacceptable to him. Son the matter of principle he resigned. To a large degree that was understandable. If you are the boss, you want to make the decisions concerning the players and selection of captains to be yours. When that is taken away then you feel that your position isn’t taken seriously.
However, there is also a school of thought that puts together a number of factors that made his resignation all the less of a surprise. It was the last year of his contract with England. He was already planning to move on after the Euro tournament. Although he did fairly well in the qualifier for the first time in quite a number of years there was a growing sense of anti-climax. No sounds of England being a favourite to win the tournament. No belief among England fans that the team would do well all because of the manager. Capello’s decision to go on Italian TV and criticise the decision made by the FA didn’t come across as too clever. In fact it seemed to come across as the perfect opportunity for him to bring to an end a relationship with England that if it hadn’t completely soured had left a considerable portion of observers unamused with whatever he did.
Was Capello a good England manager? At this point some people rush to the statistics and pull out things concerning win rates and the like. Others would hark on about the 2010 World Cup disappointment/fiasco. There would be those who bleat on about how Capello didn’t learn the language and didn’t appear to accommodate himself to the surroundings. There would be yet an argument to consider his record in the qualifiers that would be comparable to any predecessor.
He has only had one major tournament to prove himself, and if he is to be judged on that then he wouldn’t emerge as much of a success. Yet there is more to being an England manager than that. He did indeed qualify and qualify convincingly, arguably more so than his predecessors. He did introduce some players into the squad and after the World Cup allowed some optimism for some of the players coming through.
Managing expectations and other things is important in the role and his apparent aloof, withdrawn, taciturn nature did not lend himself to giving the country much hope. In as much as people respected his great club success and for the respect that his players may have for him, it is most certainly the case that there would not be much in the way of deep sadness at his departure.
What Next For England?
Some have viewed recent events as a mess. In the space of a week the country has lost a captain and its manager. It has become embroiled in a row about players and court cases and racism. Now with just a matter of monts before the major tournament things look to be in disarray.
Yet I take a rather more optimistic outlook. Emgland can now go to the tournament without any pressures. There will be no pressure on the team to win the tournament. There will be no pressure on the manager to bring home the trophy. Rather, there will be a reason for players to play well in the same way that they want to impress a new man at club level, so they’ll have a chance in a more relaxed setting to seek to impress the new dude at the international level. There may be a wave of hope with the new man bringing in fresh ideas.
Sure the circumstances are not ideal and any man coming in would have preferred more time, yet that can just as much work in your favour as the expectations are reduced and people may allow you to enjoy a honeymoon period. that could be a very good thing indeed. Could be.
That obviously comes down to the man who replaces Capello. Mark Perryman of the English Supporters Club spoke very well about the need to pick someone on a temporary basis until the end of the Euros and in that way give enough time for that temporary appointment to possibly prove their credentials and if not have a better selection of available coaches around the world. That is a very sensible suggestion and gives plenty of scope for all parties concerned to consider their options. It is such a sensible option that I have no faith in the FA to choose it. (I’m happy to be pleasantly surprised should they go this route.)
There has been a vocal element of supporters who have petitioned for the new guy to be English. He must be English, they say, because only the English guy can understand the English mentality and thus is in the best position to get the best from the English player. There is also the concern that for a country that wants to be considered one of the best in theworld, or at least compete at the level that the manager doesn’t come from the same country. I don’t see that as a racist or xenophobic argument. I do understand it and can symptathise with it. Where I think it falls down, though, is that the best manager for England isn’t always English.
Consider the managers of England since Bobby Robson and consider how good they were and the worst managers for the country have always been English. Eriksson and Capello’s record for England could only really be challenged by Venables (when he was manager and not an accessory to the McClaren demise) and Hoddle who like Capello only played one tournament and didn’t progress that far in it. That leaves McClaren, Keegan and Taylor as the worst England managers.
When thinking through the option at the moment, as mentioned at the start the overwhelming favourite for the job is the media’s favourite Harry Redknapp. He has done well for Tottenham of late. He has got them playing a brand of football that fans have truly found refreshing – the best in the league this season. He had paid his dues and worked his way up the system from Bournemouth to West Ham to Portsmouth to Southampton back to Portsmouth before getting the Spurs gig. His experience of European football ensures that he has an idea of the game abroad. He may not have come across as being too clever in his court case, but he can refer to a wealth of experience in the game and the level of goodwill that Venables and Keegan enjoyed before they started the job. (After all, he is English, which is what we need, apparently.)
My only concern with the Redknapp option is uncertainty of his ability to take the pressure that has made it so hard for all his predecessors. Can he take the stresses and strains of the job? Can he take the grief that comes with it and media agenda of some to make it their point of duty to chip away at him until he eventually leaves? Does he really have the tactical savvy to select the right players to play in the right positions and produce the right performances against the best in the world? I am not convinced. Should he get the opportunity, I’m sure he’ll be happy to prove me wrong.
Outside Redknapp, the English options don’t look to appealing – Alan Pardew? Really? Roy Hodgson? Well, masterful though he maybe on limited resources, does he have the motivational powers to bring out the best of England? I don’t think so. Sam Allardyce? His best shot came when McClaren was given the job. this opportunity has come too early for him with his West Ham challenge to prove, and if McClaren didn’t enjoy greatness when he got the England job, Allardyce has hardly set the football world alight with his managerial journey. Then we have the succession arguments of those in the England set-up. A far outsider being Gareth Southgate – he may have impressed me with his improvement as a pundit, but I’d be very doubtful of his england coaching credentials. The second or third favourite is currently Stuart Pearce, but seriously I was not impressed with his Under-21 run as coach and he hardly proved his credentials with his managerial career. It would be the truest commitment to the system to give him the job, but I’m not sure if he can succeed in that.
What about the foreign options should we go down that road again. Well if we do that the poor mug who gets it will have to convince a public who have been heavily influenced to prefer the English option. They will have to be charismatic, engaging, proven, charming, as well as being effective where it matters in terms of results. That is quite a tall task and eliminates perfectly credible candidates were it not for the fact that they were foreign. For example someone seriously put forward Pep Guardiola. Now even if Pep would be crazy enough to want the job he fails on many of the things required.
There are only two foreigners who fit that bill those being Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is a club manager who loves club management. Much as he loves England and talks of returning, it is not for the national job. Not at all. Plus if England would reject a maverick like Brian Clough, why on earth would they want to hitch a ride with Mr. Controversy? I think Mourinho is the best coach in European, possibly world football, it would be the coup. It would also be the wrong decision for all parties concerned.
Wenger? Nah. He doesn’t want it. Even if he did, the elvel of work he would want and level of control he would desire would just not be countenanced bu the FA and even if you did give him that control he would be like a fish out of water – someone persistently investing in foreign players stuck with just one nationality. Oh and then there was a mention of Rafa Benitez, but that was whilst stifling a chuckle.
Where does that leave England? Well it is an interesting position to go for Redknapp or your left with someone who won’t impress the fans or players. Even if there were viable alternatives, the level of buzz for the lead guy would handicap anyone else. Like the Keegan experiment, let the people have what they want, and if it doesn’t work out, no one can blame the FA for not seeking to do what was considered the best thing.