Friday, 10 February 2012


I don't normally get involved in discussing England on this blog as most Charlton fans (like all passionate fans of clubs) are not really all than interested in England, save for the big tournaments when even the Receptionist with the ridiculously big boobs and even more ridiculously small IQ becomes and England Fan for a fortnight - "Yay!"

However, with my New Years resolution to write more this year and with us facing a successive Saturday with no football I thought I'd add my two penneth worth to the debate.

Firstly I should mention that it is my preference for all managers to be of the nationality of the team they manage. This is not some Anglophobe attitude - I have no problems with all nationalities coming to be employed in English football (or other industries, for that matter) but when it is a competition between the English and, say, the Italians the English Manager should be English and the Italian manager Italian.

I know this risks me being accused of being silly, but would we have been so accepting if we'd employed an Italian striker or an Italian 'Keeper? I'm sure that those that run the Premier League would be more than happy to have the 'National' teams eligibility being based on where the players ply their trade. Thus the 'English' team would have to be picked from players that play in the Premier League and the Brazilians would have to all play in Brazil. That would make for a different tournament. However, this is not how it works - and nor should it.

So my preference is for the English manager to be English.

This brings me on to the two major discussion points:

1> Fabio Capello - and Sven-Göran Eriksson

2> Who should be the new England Manager

The further back you go in history the more difficult it is to analyse what happened and specifically what the impact of changing one event would have been. The FA have alternated their policy of Manager recruitment to include the 'Form' manager, the 'Popular' manager, the manager that has managed to achieve so very much with so very little (normally by managing very few players of international standard) and the 'Successful' manager. I know the definition of successful is not simple, but I think we would all agree that Eriksson and Capello had CVs that made them look successful.

If we go back to Glen Hoddle (the last English Manager that managed to get the National team past the group stage in a major tournament) you have to conclude that the Press hounded him out of his job. The Press in the UK (and for all I know the world over) have an inflated opinion of themselves. You only need to spend ten minutes watching the Sky Sports program the Sunday Supplement to realise that these chaps think that they know more about football than most of those playing and managing. They seem to believe that they have a greater input than reporting what happens, and they are totally offended if they are not shown respect. Hoddle used the press (without their knowledge) to mislead opposition - particularly in the 1998 World Cup Finals. He made the journalists look stupid and as a result when we lost that penalty shoot out to Argentina his days were numbered.

There was a lot of discussion about some mad woman messing with the players' heads, and he was reported to have said some controversial things about reincarnation (all of which might have been true) but the press hated him because they failed to show them the respect that they believed they were due, so they built up a campaign that forced the FA to push him out the door. After a great World Cup he had managed a couple of indifferent results, and that was all it took. For the record I think this was a mistake on a footballing basis, and we haven't got close to winning a tournament in the six that have follower, despite having better and better players available to the managers that followed.

As the press had forced the FA to sack Hoddle they were allowed to drum up public support for his replacement. In stepped Kevin Keegan. I don't have the time to do the necessary research, so I'm going to use a bit of poetic licence so please excuse the lack of specific facts. However Keegan had taken over at Newcastle in 1992 when the club were in dire striates. They were facing relegation from the second division and a potential decade of decline. Keegan kept them up (maybe from his mere enthusiasm alone) and in the following season he basically spent a fortune to get them promoted. He bought Robert Lee from us for something like £650k (he later went on to play for England) when we were challenging them for the top spot. He also signed Andy Cole for a club record transfer fee (£1.75m from memory) as well as others that were all too good for the division they signed to play in.

He was then given a transfer budget that dwarfed just about every other club in Europe while they made a couple of serious attempts at the Premier League title. During all this time there was little pressure on Keegan as he was managing a team that was (despite spending a fortune) performing better than expectations. His, now famous, outburst aimed at Alex Ferguson "I would love it if we beat them" showed how the pressure affected him. On 21 Jan 1996 Newcastle were 12 points above Man United (and Liverpool) with 15 games to go, but the pressure got to them and they finished the season four points behind United and Keegan was a broken man. The following season Newcastle spent £15m on Alan Shearer, but Keegan lasted until January when he resigned after failing to beat us at The Valley in the FA Cup.

His time with Fulham was another example of a team signing players for Premier League transfer fees, only this time they were in the third division. He managed to get this Premier League squad out of the third division and was then 'hounded' to take the England job.

It is my, personal, belief that Keegan had failed to demonstrate that he had what it took to win proper competitions when he was on a level playing field. Getting Fulham promoted with a team from two divisions higher is not the kind of thing that should propel a manager into the England job.

Anyway, none of this mattered as the press had decided that he needed to be the new man, and he was. He lasted one tournament. Two wins and three draws (against uninspiring opposition) secured us a play off spot, 9 points behind Sweden and goal difference above Poland. We managed to beat Scotland 2-1 over two legs (we lost 1-0 away) and we qualified. The tournament, itself, was a disaster. Sure we beat Germany - who drew one and lost two of their three games - but we never looked like being able to compete.

Keegan left the England job when he, allegedly, decided mid crap that he wasn't up to the job after we'd lost at home to Germany in the last game at the old Wembley.

The FA, I believe, decided that they needed a new approach. We had what was to become known as the Golden Generation of English players that included the Man Utd 'kids' - including Beckham, the Nevilles and Scholes, along with Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdand and Sol Campbell. We just couldn't allow another decade of mismanagement to allow this generation of players to fail.

The decision was taken to appoint a foreign manager (should he be the best choice) to maximise the chances of International success that seemed to have alluded us for so long.

Sven was an interesting choice. He had managed two Swedish clubs to the title, and one to Uefa Cup success. He had won everything in Portugal with Benfica, and made both a European and Uefa Cup Final. He'd won the Italian Cup four times (with three different teams) and another Uefa Cup Final appearance, a European Super Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.

For me the seven top tier titles with four different teams were impressive but the record in the European Cups (which I think are more like International Football) was the clincher for me. As I've already said I would have preferred an English manager, but if he wasn't going to be English then this guy had the CV didn't he?

In my view Sven did enough as English Manager. We made it to three quarter finals (what Hoddle achieved)  losing one of them to Brazil, who went on to win it, and the other two were losses on penalties. One with just ten men.

Sven was, also, targeted by the press, although not necessarily the sports journalists, and he was caught on tape accepting another job for a pay rise (shock horror) and left the England job with a credible record - both on the field and with the ladies.

Sven's replacement was an Englishman. It was the Wally with the Brolly. How he got the job I have no idea. He had managed to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League with more money than many of the clubs he regularly finished below. He also won a League Cup - this being the competition that none of the top teams play first team players in. Sure he was English (my preference) and he had won something (which none of the others interviewed - including Curbishley) had, but he was just not good enough.

In fact I was at Wembley when we lost 3-2 to Croatia and all three of us (that had gone together) were quite happy to lose and fail to qualify as it meant McClaren would be sacked. What a shocking state of affairs.

For the record I'm not sure that I would have preferred Curbishley or Allardyce as they were both known for dour football and hadn't won anything. At least McClaren had been involved in the England camp - the only thing I can think of that get him the job.

So in 2008 we needed a new manager, and we had discovered that despite failing to find a decent English manager in the ten years since Hoddle had gone we were still nowhere in terms of training managers to manage at the top level. Bobby Robson was approached (it might not have been in 2008) but he was happy at Newcastle, and the only other English Manager that had been successful was Venables, who had been involved with McClaren and was not getting any younger either.

The decision to 'insist' on English in 2006 had now backfired on the FA and they went for the best they could find. Capello had an outstanding CV and he was the kind of strict manager that it was thought was needed after the WAG debacle of 2006. McClaren had attempted to sort this by dropping Beckham (presumably assuming that the press interest was all about him and Victoria) but brought him back into the squad (too late) when it was clear that he was, in fact, also a footballer.

The hard line by Fabio seemed to work during the qualifiers (a week or two together under strict rules) as we qualified with ease for the 2010 World Cup. He, even, managed to wrangle an extension to his contract until 2012 before the tournament started.

It was an unmitigated disaster. The strict rules, that were clearly ok for short periods were never going to be accepted by multi-millionaire men that are surrounded by sycophants that blow smoke up their backsides all day long. I've heard stories that players at the top teams call out 'hired help' to empty their vacuum cleaners, change their tires and pick up their dry cleaning. These boys go to night clubs are are offered sex in the toilets by complete strangers - they just do not do 'As they are told'. They were never going to be 'managed' in the way Capello thought for six weeks plus in the run up to, and the tournament itself.

The results, and performances, were only two years ago so I don't think I need to describe them,but they were bad!

The dropping of John Terry before the World Cup, and the reinstating him a year later, along with the recent events, are not necessary to be discussed here, but the fact that Fabio thought he would come out and publicly criticise the FA over their insistence that he lose the armband this month meant that there was always a possibility of him leaving before the tournament.

What a mess?

So there are a few candidates, apparently. Remember that the FA stated last year that the new manager would be English.

The latest odds from are:

'Arry Redknapp 2/7
Stuart Pearce 7/1
Jose Mourinho 9/1 - Not English
Guss Hiddink 9/1 - Not English
Roy Hodgson 12/1
Arsene Wenger 25/1 - Not English
Martin O'Neill - Not English, but been in English Football for most of his career
Alan Pardew 28/1 - I would have to stop following England if he took over
Alan Shearer 33/1
Rafael Benitez 33/1 - Not English
Roberto Mancini 33/1 - Not English
Sam Allardyce 40/1

All others (including Sven) are 50/1 plus.

Now, I know that all these odds are determined by the bets that are put on them, but if we ignore Shearer, Pardew and Allardyce (all Newcastle managers at one time, incidentally) we have three Englishmen. With Pearce having so little experience (two years at Man City and the U21 job) that leaves us Hodgson and Redknapp. Hodgson would have been an ideal candidate if it were not for the disaster that he had at Liverpool, but I still think he is a credible option.

Redknapp is just about everyone's favourite. He has shaken off the fraud issues due to twelve of his peers believing that money being paid into a bank account, offshore, in the name of his dog, from his employer was not, in fact, income. Case closed.

Redknapp does not have a reputation for selling himself cheap, and with Fabio's reported £6m salary I can see Redknapp holding out for the same - especially as just about all the players have already called for him to get the job. The FA are reportedly hoping to reduce the Manager's salary.

What worries me is that the clamber for him to take over is not unlike that of Keegan in 1999. Also, the fact that Redknapp has only won one trophy (an FA Cup with Portsmouth, who ended up c. £150m in debt) and has, in fact, only managed a big side (well Tottenham) for two full seasons. Sure they have done well, but he has spent some serious money and is known for being a wheeler dealer. Despite the fact that Mr Redknapp, the professional football manager, doesn't like to be called a wheeler dealer he has been successful by changing the squad that he is managing. This is very important for club management, but is largely irrelevant for an international manager as the 'squad' is limited by the nature of players having to be English.

Clearly you wouldn't expect Redknapp to court the England job while he is at Spurs and Fabio is in situ, but I can't help feeling that what is going to happen is that he will hold the FA to ransom in order to secure the largest salary possible. I can understand why he would do that, and just because I would rip their arms off for £1m a year doesn't mean that 'Arry can't demand more - and probably get it.

What I don't want to see is another long term contract on outrageous money that forces the FA's hand if things don't work out.

Having said that as there is, realistically, no obvious alternative he can demand what ever he likes, and unless we are going to go foreign again any time soon he will, probably, be the best alternative for the medium term.

At some point we need to address the fact that there are so few English managers in the Premier League, but I have no idea how we do that, and I don't think this is the place to discuss it.

I'm OK with 'Arry. I am not completely sure I'd employ him to oversee the financial transactions of my company, but as far as managing the England team and being English, he does seem to be first in a group of one.

Come on England!


ChicagoAddick said...

You never told me you had a receptionist?

Kings Hill Addick said...

Long time ago CA. Just like the last time we had a decent tournament!

Richard said...

What a great post. Really enjoyed reading that. I remember well the press insistence that Keegan take the role, and it annoys me how they forget that when doing their own pieces on this story. Sorry, i can't resist pointing out that Keegan's England won the Scotland away leg 2 0 with two goals from Scholes, and it was the home leg we lost 0 1.

Personally, I think that Sven did a great job. England are at best a top 8 team, and so 3 quarter finals was an accurate reflection of our general competence.

Shame that the press seem to have such power. I think they could take a lesson from bloggers such as yourself. This piece is balanced, largely accurate and very engaging. Well done you.

Kings Hill Addick said...

You're right Richard. What's more is that it makes my point even better if I manage to get my facts straight.