Managers of the English national team have not fared well over the past decade. Failure has followed failure, and Roy Hodgson appeared a reliable pair of hands to steady the ship and take England forward. However, following three abject major tournaments under Hodgson, the Football Association is yet again tasked with appointing England’s next manager.
While many did not think Hodgson would, or indeed deserved, to stay on as England manager after Euro 2016, few would have predicted a climax quite like this. Defeat to minnows Iceland brought a humbling and acrimonious end to his England career.
Indeed, Hodgson’s tone of voice and evident fragility in his press conference in Chantilly the day after England’s exit suggest it may be an ignominious end to his managerial career.
Already rumours are rampantly proposing, and rejecting, his successor with Southgate tipped to take interim charge. This will give the FA time to overcome the disappointment and anger attached to this latest campaign and pick the right cherry from the tree.
The recruitment process will be intensely scrutinised by players, media and fans alike. However, a successful decision is vital for the future of English football, and here are three reasons why.
For the Sake of the FA Itself:
The FA have tried everything in recent years.
They have brought in lauded, foreign managers on major pay packets, and an up-and-coming English manager. Hodgson was their latest experiment. He represented a safe choice; he was a well-travelled statesman within the game, a figure respected by his peers and well-liked by fans (Liverpool supporters aside), and boasting relatively recent domestic success from his time at Fulham. He was a far cry from the volatile and outspoken Harry Redknapp, the favourite for the job.
However, all these managers have constantly failed to succeed. In fact, they have comprehensively underperformed.
England’s next manager will have the fantastic facilities at St George’s Park, an excellent selection of youthful players and the backing of the noisiest fans around.
It is a combination that should lead to success, yet the constant failure is a damning verdict on the FA’s vision, competence and knowledge. Martin Glenn’s repeated admission that he’s ‘not a football expert‘, will do little to allay fears.
As the Premier League goes from strength from to financial strength, the FA will have to prove that some of these benefits will reach the national team. Elsewise, the finger will increasingly point squarely in their direction as a governing body fit to lead the game in this country.
Credibility needs to be restored, and that starts with the FA.
To Instill a Mental Toughness:
How often did Wayne Rooney and Roy Hodgson discuss the ruthlessness that England had to develop and show? Why then, was consistently it lacking (bar Sturridge’s goal against Wales) through the last two tournaments? England failed to see out the game against Russia, the weakest team in the tournament, while Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy missed gilt-edged chances against Slovakia.
The Iceland game, however, saw the nadir of the mental toughness that is essential to such ruthlessness. With a 1-0 lead established so early on, it was imperative that England killed the game and forced Iceland into reckless attacks.
To concede a goal instantly, and from the most predictable weapon in the Iceland armoury, would not be out of place in an under-15 game. To concede, again, so soon after, via a succession of awful defensive and goalkeeping lapses was an unacceptable display from the some of the world’s most highly-rated, and paid, players.
For the Sake of Upcoming Talents:
The one saving grace of Euro 2016 has been the introduction of young talent.
Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane should be around the England team for many, many years to come. They will know what the pressure feels like at a major tournament now, and all its trappings. The media circus; the brutal post-match ratings; tight, cagey and attritional games.
And they will be the better for it. However, they will also be hurting, bruised and scarred by an experience that has ended in such terrible circumstances.
These young players will need to be managed carefully by the next man into the England dugout, if they are to flourish again. Such management exists on a personal level and on a tactical level. The devastating erosion of Raheem Sterling’s morale was hard to watch, even from the most flinty-eyed England supporter, and Hodgson should have kept him out of the team for the rest of the tournament. Any sort of comeback for Sterling looks difficult at this stage, such is the vehemence of fan frustration and public opinion directed against him over the past weeks.
Such corrupting sentiment cannot be allowed to spread throughout the squad, and there are simple steps that England’s next manager can take.
These players need to be played in their correct position, to ensure their talent is not wasted. Forget playing Alli out on the wing. Forget Harry Kane on corners. Put round pegs in round holes.
When players are underperforming to such a degree, they must be taken out of the limelight, rather than left to struggle on with every mistake pounced upon by a baying pack of social media hounds. If more English youngsters go the same way as Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley seem to be heading then, boy, are England in trouble.
England’s next manager will have to ensure that this fresh tranche of talent is not consigned to the annals of history.
Onwards and Upwards:
The English national set-up appears paralysed in a vicious circle of defeatism. The media jump on any sign of weakness in an instant, the Premier League form seems to ebb and flow faster than the value of the Pound, while major tournaments constantly appear to surprise England in the speed with which they come around.
The same pattern emerges every couple of years. A squad appears promising and jets into the English sky with vain promises of patriotism and cries of ‘maybe, just maybe, this is our year’.
The return to a suburban London airport a few weeks later resembles nothing short of a funeral. A funeral with vultures not standing by, but ripping into the limp, shattered and self-indulgent body of England’s squad. The FA have to appoint a manager that can bring the pride and hope back into this team.
Russia 2018 has got to buck the trend of the decade.
Maybe, it will be ‘our’ year.