Harry James Redknapp was once feted as England’s hope. He is now regarded by some as the embodiment of the nation’s limited thinking. Sam McGuire goes jurrasic.
Harry Redknapp is the face of English football management and it’s indicative of how behind the times the nation is when it comes to football. The man who, in his very own humble opinion, unearthed Gareth Bale, was cheated out of the England job when he had all the right credentials and was then treated appallingly by Tottenham Hotspur when he left White Hart Lane is forever on our TV screens lately and having his opinions quoted in newspapers.
I’m not sure how many people take him seriously these days but whenever I hear him speak or even read what he’s said I can’t help but feel as though he’s the answer to the FA’s question; why are England behind so many nations?
I don’t mean I expect the famed wheeler dealer to be appointed as the national team manager and lead England to World Cup glory. Instead I can’t help but feel he, and many others similar to him who are held in high regard by the FA, is the reason England struggle on the national stage. They don’t like change, they dismiss anything they aren’t familiar with and their tactics are outdated. The sort that pipe up with “In my day”, “Those were the days” and “You’re being unreasonable, why do I need to update my Nokia 3210?”
When Jurgen Klopp was appointed as Liverpool manager the media had a new buzzword to jump on; gegenpressing. The German had great success using this tactic while at Dortmund and lead the underdogs to the Champions League final as well as winning two Bundesliga titles. It’s a tactic he adopted and evolved. The British media are still having trouble coming to terms with this counter pressing tactic but not to worry as Harry Redknapp was there to help.
“It’s just football” the 68 year old carefully explained before following it up with “Yes, they ran about a lot more but they should look at themselves and ask why they didn’t’ try harder for Brendan Rodgers.”
There we have the man many wanted as the next England manager before Roy Hodgson was appointed carefully explaining why gegenpressing is nothing more than running about a bit more. With that sort of in depth tactical knowledge it’s hard to see why England overlooked him isn’t it? I wonder why Spurs got rid of him when they had such a good chance at finishing top 4. The man whose tactical knowledge consisted of having Peter Crouch knock the ball down to Rafael van der Vaart, rinse and repeat. He was almost the manager of England.
More often than not England’s failure at World Cups and European Championships is put on the fact club teams are failing to produce top English talent. The players selected just aren’t good enough. Big Premier League clubs prefer to bring in talented foreigners and if they have the money then I don’t blame them. As we’ve seen already this season, the league is results driven and managers don’t have time to be bedding youngsters to help the FA. They need results and they need them now. So you can forgive clubs if they aren’t fielding youngsters in their starting XI when they’re having to qualify for Europe on a regular basis.
You rarely hear media or fans blame the manager for poor results at international level. They have to work with the players they’ve got is often the excuse but in reality, if you’re being blunt, the managers of the national side aren’t doing a good enough job utilising the players they have at their disposal. They get player selection wrong and more worryingly they get tactics wrong.
England are perpetual underachievers and even with world class talent in their ranks they failed to mastermind any sort of assault into the latter stages of any competition that springs to mind. We’ve witnessed Paul Scholes play left-midfield, we’ve seen Steven Gerrard play a wide role and it’s also looked like individuals put together as opposed to an actual England team.
You need an English manager, or at least a manager aware enough to understand the English game, who is not only tactically astute but bright enough to play to the strengths of the players he has available. Progression won’t be made as a nation if you’re appointing a manager who describes one of the most effective tactics in world football as ‘running a lot more’. Likewise, having the England squad try to replicate Germany, Spain or France is always going to fail as the profile of our players is different to the profiles of players for the aforementioned nations. Fabio Capello tried to turn England into Italy. Roy Hodgson has tried to copy the German style of play.
Both managers wasted the genuine talent they had at hand.
It shouldn’t be hard for England to get to the Quarter Finals of certain competitions. You head to the tournament with a game plan, you have tactics in mind that will suit the group you’ve selected and then you take every single of the games as if they were knockout games and you plan accordingly.
You can have an inferior squad individual wise but as a team it’s perfectly possible to beat teams littered with world class stars. You just need the right tactics and for so long England have failed to address the relationship between tactics and the individuals within their squad. So maybe it’s time the FA throw out tradition and appoint a younger manager, somebody like Karl Robinson, Eddie Howe or Garry Monk. These are the guys with fresh tactical ideas. These are the sorts of managers to do well with that they’ve got. They may not be the best squads but they get the tactics right and they punch above their weight. Isn’t that what England need for their football team?