by Liam McConville
With just over six weeks to go to the start of the European Championships England still don’t have a manager following Fabio Capello’s resignation in February. The apparent heir to the throne media darling Harry Redknapp has seen his stock dramatically fall since the England job became available as Spurs have surrendered their grip on 3rd and now look as though they may miss out on a Champions League spot. So if Redknapp isn’t England’s knight in shining armour, who else could realistically take on the job?
The FA has made a habit of appointing the flavour of the month when it comes to hiring national team managers. So with this rationale the highly impressive Alan Pardew must be high up on the shortlist. Pardew has guided Newcastle to fourth in the league (so far) with the help of a quality scouting network and has built a strong side that has removed the egos from the squad for the good of the team. The humorously dubbed ‘Pardiola’ will surely be fearful of becoming the next Steve McClaren and may well decide to really prove his worth at Newcastle and show loyalty to the man who brought him back to the big time, Mike Ashley.
That brings the search to Roy Hodgson, a man doing a great job in establishing West Brom as a Premier League club. Hodgson has steadily been rebuilding his reputation since his miserable spell at Liverpool culminating in a very sweet 1-0 win at Anfield on Sunday. Having spent much of his career in relative obscurity Hodgson has showcased his ability at making average sides overachieve in the Premier League. He also has past experience in International football with Switzerland and Finland, something which must count heavily in his favour when it comes to selection time.
Current caretaker boss Stuart Pearce has impressed with his spell with the Under 21s and has many supporters within the FA. Another young English coach who continues to impress within the walls of Wembley is the current head of elite development, Gareth Southgate although it seems more likely that Southgate will be named the FA’s new technical director. Both men are relatively inexperienced and the job would surely come too early for them in their respective careers. Success in international football is generally achieved by the elder statesman of the game and for me Southgate and Pearce aren’t ready yet.
There seems to be an insistence that England needs an English manager, but I don’t see why this has to be the case. The Republic of Ireland has achieved great things under Giovanni Trappatoni and has qualified for their first major tournament in ten years. Trappatoni was appointed after years of failure under the likes of Steve Staunton and has turned them back into a force on the international stage. It’s fair to say many in Dublin aren’t opposed to the idea of a foreign coach anymore.
This brings me to the possibilities of another non-Englishman taking the role. I think it’s fair enough to rule out both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola and anyone who thinks England could land either of the two great rivals is living in cloud cuckoo land. For me the other outstanding candidate is the former Liverpool boss, Rafa Benitez. Benitez is readily available and has expressed interest in the job before and still lives near Liverpool. He speaks the language well and has embraced the culture since arriving on Merseyside back in 2004.
The Spaniard has made knockout football his forte and has a great record in European competition with both Liverpool and Valencia. He has had a lengthy sabbatical from the game following a disappointing spell at Inter Milan and will be itching to get back into the game. During this time Benitez has kept busy regularly appearing as a television pundit as he plots his next move.
As a Liverpool fan I was critical during his final season with the club but in hindsight, Benitez’s achievements look even better given the club’s recent dismal league form. I don’t want this to be seen as a Liverpool fan rambling about the past but I genuinely think that Benitez is an outstanding candidate for England who certainly deserves a mention when the FA make their long awaited choice.