My thoughts on: The Next England Manager
England face a trip to Montenegro on Friday 7th October as Fabio Capello aims to secure qualification to next summer’s European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine. A draw will suffice but England, as always, will be expected to win and to mount a serious challenge for winning the tournament with the memory of the team’s failings in South Africa still fresh in the mind.
For many, and I include me in that, thought that there should have been a change in leadership after the defeat to Germany; but there wasn’t, and now England sit on the verge of qualification for the 2012 tournament with Capello still at the helm, albeit ready to step down post-tournament (or sooner I guess dependant on the results next week?).
The big question then is who should take the reins and move England forward? To be fair, to call the Italian’s time in the job as a failure may be a bit harsh. We are slowly seeing a change in personnel and the removal of the reliance on a number of players in preference of youth; he has overseen comfortable qualification campaigns and who knows; he may have learned from the mistakes made in 2010 and England may have a good tournament next year (what would happen if we went on to win it I wonder?). The fact remains though that, in my opinion, England need a fresh start inspired by a new regime.
The leading contender amongst the media and many supporters is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp. Although Redknapp is tagged by some as a ‘wheeler dealer’ manager, borne out of his stewardship at clubs such as AFC Bournemouth, Portsmouth, West Ham Utd and Southampton; Redknapp has dealt with many high-profile players, so I fail to see how this attempted blot on his CV stands up. Some might say he hasn’t been that successful, which again I would argue against, citing his time at West Ham Utd with finishes of 5th and 8th and the overseeing of many academy products making the journey into first team regulars (and ultimately internationals).
His two stints in charge of Portsmouth brought about great success for a provincial club; winning the second tier at a relative canter, keeping them in the top-flight and winning the FA Cup and was ultimately more successful than his brief spell in charge of their near-neighbours Southampton.
Now in charge of Tottenham Hotspur; Redknapp has led the club forward to a point where they are now seriously considered as a real and consistent threat to the monopoly of the top-four slots in the Premier League, and indeed, oversaw qualification to the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
I hear suggestions that this relative success was only possible due to the financial clout he received at Portsmouth and what he currently gets at White Hart Lane; however, I would argue that this is really not that relevant as being England manager dictates that you have a pool of every English player to select from and the role relies more on coaching ability, tactical nous and man management skills rather than how successful or dependant you have been in the transfer market to acquire success.
The FA I believe have openly suggested that the next manager of the national team will be an Englishman and although it is a sentiment that I would rather, I think it is something of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the media/public frustration connected to Sven-Goran Eriksson and the current incumbant. By choosing an Englishman does not necessarily guarantee you greater success as the opposite doesn’t as recent appointments have shown. My main issue with Fabio Capello is that I feel he doesn’t have the grasp of the language to communicate effectively nor did he have a great understanding of the English game when he came into the role… I may even question if he fully understands it now.
I would not be adverse to another non-English appointment, but I would stress that it would have to be given to a character who has experience of the English league and is able to communicate clearly and concisely in English. I would have no problems with names such as Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill being linked to the job; all of which have been successful in England (albeit to differing levels and consistency) and all of which would command the respect of the squad. The same old arguments undoubtedly will be discussed referencing how successful (or lack of it) English managers actually are; but the problem with that is that if you measure success purely by winning the Premier League, until one of those clubs who monopolise that title give an Englishman the job, then it is unlikely we will see it for a few years yet.
Another common suggestion is that in order to be successful England need to appoint someone with proven international management experience. Research shows that this is completely inaccurate as since 1994, only Berti Vogts (one year with Kuwait) and Roger Lemerre (coached under Aime Jacquet’s reign) had previous experience at that level and therefore I think blows that thought process out of the water
For me, the next England manager needs to be an experienced coach, someone who has shown to be tactically aware and successful, someone who can communicate coherently with players and supporters, someone who can manage the players as individuals, including those players who aren’t necessarily in the squad, and someone who commands respect. For me, my choice would be one of the above; Redknapp, Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill; I wonder whether the FA dare select any of these characters or opt for the ‘safer option’ of Stuart Pearce?