With Gareth Southgate looking likely to continue his reign in the English dugout, it ponders the question if he is the right man to continue to lead this golden generation of talent into battle and if not him, who should be the next England manager?
Who Should Manage England at Euro 2024?
The current situation
There continues to be mixed feelings towards the 52-year-old’s tenure as England manager after another trophyless tournament. Qatar was his third major international tournament and potentially the most disappointing of the three. Having finished fourth place at the Russian World Cup in 2018 and falling short at the European Championships last year in the final, all the progress seemed to lead up to this December to finally change the tide.
After a disgraceful Nations League performance, where they failed to win a game, including a 4-0 defeat to Hungary, there was an air of pessimism surrounding the England camp and specifically the man in charge. However it was all blown away as the Three Lions flew past Iran in a stunning campaign opener in Doha. The reality of pre-Qatar football was soon resumed as a polar opposite performance played out just four days later against the United States in a dull 0-0 draw.
As the pressure began to mount, they churned out two stunning results, one against the close rivals of Wales to secure top spot of Group B and another being the flawless victory against the Senegalese, to lock in their spot against the reigning champions, France. This match-up was deemed the Englishmen’s first ‘real test’ as scepticism continued to be raised over the favourable runs that they have endured under Southgate.
As we all now know, they were unable to overcome their Channel neighbours and conceded a 2-1 loss after a missed Harry Kane penalty saw them on an early flight home. This has thus sparked discussions up and down the country over what direction the national team needs.
Fans are in fear that young players deemed as world-beaters such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham are going to be wasted under a manager who notoriously plays negative football. The nation fears that this generation of talent, led by Harry Kane, who will be 33 at the next World Cup in the United States, will replicate the trophyless era just like the previous ‘golden generation’ where the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard failed to impress on the world stage.
What should happen next?
From a logistical standpoint, if within the next four years England are to have a new manager, they should be hired now. They would have a warm up tournament, being the 2024 Euros, before a shot at The World Cup trophy, exactly 60 years after the great Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet at Wembley. It would be a chance to experiment with the array of talent currently in the England ranks, explore formations and most importantly create a clear identity in how they play.
The main question is who is the correct person to replace Southgate? Two names on the lips of fans are Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino. It has caused a stir online with many people wanting to keep to the idea of an English manager, but recent failures may indicate a change from that ideology. A look left at The Lionesses and their successful reign under Sarina Wiegman so far, shows that an outside hire could just do the trick. The Dutch manager has also had her name tossed into the ring to be Southgate’s successor.
If the FA were to stick with the English route, there is a lack of realistic managers to hire. One of the only English managers with the status to be hired as a free agent right now is Steven Gerrard, but after a miserable time at Aston Villa, it seems too soon for him to take that leap right now. Another Ex-England midfielder that could potentially enter the frame is Frank Lampard, whose days at Everton continue to seem numbered, however minor successes at Chelsea and Derby may see his name ahead of his compatriot on the favourites list. Two of the men destined to be at the top though are Eddie Howe and Graham Potter, but the likelihood of their projects being abandoned for what seems to be the poisoned chalice of the England role are next to none.
Eddie Howe on Toon side seems like a match made in heaven, and with new Saudi investment, everything is on the up for Newcastle and it would take an immensely lucrative deal to pry the 45-year-old away from The Geordies. Then for Graham Potter, his expansive, free-flowing, attacking football on the south coast meant Todd Boehly saw him as the main man to figurehead his new project in the capital. Also with heavy investment and exciting young players, it is a dream job for most managers. Even if the FA can tempt Potter away from Stamford Bridge, his five-year contract will be a major obstacle to overcome.
That takes us back to the likes of Pochettino and Tuchel. Despite being long in the past, friction between Germany and England may be a barrier for the signing of Tuchel, mainly from the English fans’ perspectives as there is an apparent appeal from the German’s side towards being the England manager. Pochettino in the other corner has a solid foundation in his relationship with the FA, as he was previously invited to watch a game with FA board members as a thank you for the work he did promoting and developing English talent such as Kane, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli to name a few.
His understanding of the English game runs deep after seven years managing in the Premier League and his relation with the current captain could be a considered factor. If he was to revert back to the free-flowing attacking style we saw in North London during the peak of his reign at Tottenham, fans up and down the country would buy into his appointment and again buy into the idea that ‘football is coming home’.
So that leaves one final question: with a plethora of options, who would you like Southgate in the dugout when England heads to Germany for Euro 2024?