by Jack Howes
There is just over a month until the start of Euro 2012. Ideally for a nation preparing for an assault on the trophy you’d have qualified comfortably, you’d have a settled team with a core group of players who are in form, free of fatigue and don’t have any injury concerns. You’d have a settled pattern of play, a system of play that the players and coaches were happy with and which utilised the players potential as best as possible, but also with enough tactical flexibility to vary their approach depending on the opponent. Team morale would be good, prospects optimistic and your worries limited to hoping your players don’t get injured and that the room in the hotel you’re staying in is of a high standard.
I don’t even mention having a manager in place there because it’s inconceivable to not have a manager in place just over a month before the start of a major championship. However this being England they have managed to achieve the inconceivable by not having a manager in place just over a month before the European Championships start. The team, the players, the backroom staff, our tactical approach are all in a state of flux.
The FA are trying to sound reassuring when they say they have a plan and that things are under control. Well they sound about as reassuring as someone who tells the cop in Reservoir Dogs everything is under control when Michael Madsen is hacking his ear off and dousing him in gasoline. The England team is in a state of complete chaos and when Brian Clough said that when the FA get in their stride they make the mafia look like kindergarten material he wasn’t far wrong.
Yesterday they went against all expectation in asking West Brom for formal permission to speak to Roy Hodsgon. This confounded everyone who expected to see Redknapp installed as the man to take England forward but personally I believe that Woy of all the candidates has the most credentials. He has experience at international level in leading Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup and being only three points off leading Finland to Euro 2008. That’s not to mention his stints in Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Norway managing club sides. He’s an experienced operator who knows European football and who wouldn’t be fazed by the tactical duel of wits against fellow international managers.
But his successes have only come with smaller clubs. At Liverpool he had a shocking time and though there were mitigating circumstances to leave Liverpool only four points off the relegation zone was a feat not even Graeme Souness managed. At Inter he notoriously sold Roberto Carlos to Real Madrid. The likes of Fulham have been where he’s been successful. And while England in international stature are closer to a side of the stature of Fulham than many fans would like to think, England is still a notoriously difficult beast to manage.
At Liverpool his training sessions consisting of little but work on positioning apparently bored players silly. He also at Liverpool and to a lesser extent at West Brom has shown a tendency to go bananas when things don’t go his side’s way. England managed to put donkey ears on a manager who’d won the European Cup and won nine league titles in Spain and Italy. God knows what they might do to Roy.
Especially as his tactics are not going to result in England playing like Brazil 1970, and if players at Liverpool didn’t take him very seriously he may well face similar problems with England. For a manager who relies heavily on his teams showing good positioning and having a good shape there is very little time and matches to instil that into the England team before our first match against France. I prefer him to Redknapp due to his experience, but this appointment is not one to set pulses racing.
Should Hodgson turn the opportunity down – which looks increasingly unlikely – then surely Spurs will be the next club getting the phone call.
Everyone loves Harry. At least that’s what you’d think from reading the tabloid press. I don’t believe people particularly do want Harry, the tabloids in this case I don’t think are reflecting public opinion, certainly now Spurs are crumbling.
As a Spurs fan I would be delighted for Harry to become England manager. His lack of squad rotation, repetitive and unimaginative tactics, inability to stop blabbing to the press and now him allegedly falling out with many Spurs players means I’d be more than happy to see him leave my club. The fact I’m happy for him to manage England shows my personal lack of patriotism and perhaps a general sense of apathy around the England national team.
His strengths as the new England manager would be that at least he’d get the press on side and avoid having a turnip splashed on his forehead on the front page of The Sun. His man-management skills at least on a short-term basis are good, and the players would you’d think be happy to play for him. You’d see a happier camp under Harry than you saw under Capello. But this isn’t a boy scout camp, it’s a major championship and does Harry have the ability to tactically outfox fellow international managers?
I doubt it. Putting the players in a bog standard 4-4-2 and largely letting the players get on with it is not enough. You need intricate tactical knowledge, to tailor your tactical approach according to your opposition and the ability to switch tactical approaches in the match. Not only are England’s players dufuses who at times don’t look like they know Prozone from Boyzone but Harry simply isn’t a tactician. From supporting Spurs I can tell you Harry keeps things simple and relied heavily on tactical adjustments at half-time to sort out problems. Those half-time adjustments have stopped working recently.
People on Talksport might say it’s about passion and playing for the shirt but that’s only part of the battle. Passion is more likely to lead to a rash sending off and national disgrace in the group stages than to European Championship glory. Harry may get the players to be a happy, unified bunch of players but when France are 2-0 up and running rampant, does he have the ability and wherewithal to sort out England tactically and inspire a comeback? No. Personally I think he’d struggle at international level and is to be avoided by the FA.
What then of Stuart Pearce, who was, and remains, a distant contender? Until yesterday’s surprising developments Pearce was the most likely option to manage England for the Euros.
His big drawback is his lack of experience. Two seasons managing Manchester City and two campaigns managing the England under 21’s is all the managerial experience he has, and while the under 21’s did reach the European final in 2009 they were thumped in the final by Germany and then tumbled out at the group stage of the 2011 World Cup. At Manchester City he managed a side before the takeovers of Shinawatra and Sheikh Mansour and did OK but not spectacularly with a dull side.
With England he was Capello’s assistant which at least means he knows the players fairly well, and when he led England against Holland he said all the right things and the team performance was OK if still a loss with some abysmal defending. The fact he was a popular player means the fans and press will give him some respite. Also the people who call for passion and think that England’s problem hasn’t been poor players and poor tactics but not enough passion and singing of the national anthem will at least have a patriotic manager who they can’t complain about.
Ok as a caretaker (it’s not as if we’re going to do very well whoever manages us) but if he’s a permanent appointment we’re in trouble.
Pep Guardiola – Just no. Managing England after managing Barcelona and Lionel Messi is like sleeping with Scarlett Johansson one night and Ann Widdecombe the next. The remedy for four exhausting years at Barcelona isn’t a stint managing England.
Jose Mourinho – It looks as if he wants to stay at Madrid now and anyway managing England isn’t nearly prestigious enough for Jose.
Alan Pardew – Managed Newcastle superbly but his managerial record is chequered and he’s already said he doesn’t want the job. With Newcastle on the up, I hardly blame him.
Glenn Hoddle – Notorious for his lack of man-management skills. Did OK managing England fifteen years ago but hasn’t managed any side in five years and his management career is largely one of failure.