As Fabio Capello edges closer and closer towards his final curtain call as England manager, you would hope that the corridors of power within the FA are beginning their search for his successor, if not by way of a plan of action but certainly with mutterings of short lists and candidates behind the scenes.
It wouldn’t entirely surprise you if they weren’t….but you hope they are.
So who’s in the frame?
Shortly after the World Cup debacle that was South Africa, the FA were keen to advise that their preference for next manager would be an Englishman but is that really the correct stance to take? We’d all love to see an Englishman at the helm next time round – indeed I would like to see the rules change to mirror those of the playing criteria and therefore ONLY an Englishman can take charge – but with the rules as they are, should we really be limiting ourselves to such a small pool?
The FA has got this appointment too wrong, too often and it is imperative that this time, they get it right. But whoever that may be, he must have the power, technical knowledge, personality and ego to take this country to where it believes it belongs.
So who is that individual or does he even exist – English or otherwise? Let’s look at the main runners and riders in the race to replace this Italian thoroughbred;
Harry Redknapp – Widely tipped as favourite to succeed Capello and probably the fans choice but you can’t get away from the niggling feeling that ‘Ol ‘Arry may be too much of a wheeler-dealer for the still-sometimes-stuffy FA and its difficult to imagine allegations previously levelled at Redknapp won’t leave some at the FA feeling uncomfortable.
Also, does international management suit Redknapp? His reputation as a “Wheeler-dealer” stems from his ability to buy and sell, mould and develop squads. Not quite the way with England – there’s your lot Son, get on with it.
Martin O’Neill – not English clearly but would certainly fit the bill as a motivator and man-manager. Had almost every team he has managed punching above their weight and on principle may be popular with the fans.
His playing style has at time been questioned and whether the politics and bureaucracy of the FA would sit well with O’Neill, it’s difficult to say.
The FA may also see him as somewhat of a wild card and one prone to erratic decisions, his hasty departure from Villa a case in point.
Roy Hodgson – a strong candidate previously but his time at Liverpool has seen his stock dwindle. A manager, who has been round the block with a strong CV, knows international football and is tactically sound but looked out of his depth at Liverpool. Perhaps his time has been and gone for taking over as England Manager
Steve Bruce – too many problems at Sunderland at present to make him a serious contender. It wouldn’t be the first time the FA has looked to employ a manager who is flavour of the month but given Sunderland’s inconsistencies, it’s difficult to imagine that will be Bruce come the summer.
Alan Pardew – may seem a strange one but as stated above, given the FA’s history of employing managers on the crest of a wave, should Newcastle’s form continue in any way like they have started the season, he’ll be mentioned nearer the time for sure.
David Moyes – may very well feel he has taken Everton as far as he can this season and may be looking for a move come the summer. England manager? The FA would be daft not to consider a man who has spent close to 10 years at Everton essentially managing what he is given and then turning that into a squad capable to finishing in the top 6. Doesn’t really seem to suit Moyes though, as the archetypal track-suit manager. A better fit for Moyes, would be perhaps Spurs should Redknapp get the job.
Stuart Pearce – it was always felt that he would make the step up from Under 21’s naturally but its not really happened that way and few think he would be suitable for the top job.
David Beckham – don’t laugh. There will no doubt be those within the FA who will fancy Beckham but it would be an appointment open to ridicule from day one. There would also be the concerns that the whole thing could turn into a circus but should Beckham so choose, the appointment after Capello may very well be a realistic aim.
Continental Manager – I’ve not discussed any individual in detail as I simply can’t see the FA turning that way. Fingers were seriously burnt with Eriksson and then Capello and it’s difficult to imagine they will go the same way again.
Reading the above, it hardly fills you with optimism but time will tell. As stated, it has to be the best candidate, not the best English candidate that takes over. That said, I can’t see the FA straying too far from the British Isles this time round.
So what’s in store for the new manager?
We certainly don’t have “the golden generation” of yesteryear, who had all the ability and attitude to conquer all that came before them….allegedly. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine anyone from that group other than Wayne Rooney and to a lesser extent Steven Gerrard – if he ever gets over his current injury problems – playing any meaningful part going forward.
But perhaps that’s what’s needed. An overhaul. A reality check. The McLaren and Capello reigns have felt like little more than a hangover from the Eriksson led Hello! Magazine party but there is a myth in this country that all of a sudden this once strong nation has fallen. Clearly the solitary trophy won back in 1966 paints a different picture.
Make no mistake, at best we’ve been nearly-men over the years, nothing more.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to believe the press, the fans and anyone connected with England will allow the manager the time and patience required to build a team capable of seriously challenging. But that’s how we are in this Country and any Manager coming in must deal with that.
We do have a strong crop coming through or recently established; Hart, Walker, Smalling, Jones, Young, Rodwell, Barkley, Sturridge and Oxlade-Chamberlain to name but a few. But it is important – probably more so than ever - that these young men are given the appropriate time to develop.
Given the unbelievably bad display at the last World Cup, you’d think there would be some serious reflection and a dampening of expectations. But don’t you worry, come next summer, flags will be flying from car windows and pubs, grown men will think nothing of having their faces painted with our countries colours and wild predictions of returning from Kiev, trophy in hand, as the Kings of Europe will be vast….because we’re England….and that’s what we do!
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