Daniel considers what could have been had the FA gone with someone other than Steve “The Narcissist” McClaren.
The Premiership is on hiatus which can only mean that we’re back to England in poor form and two away trips coming up. In fact, itâ€™s quite possible that former Manchester United assistant Steve McClaren could be out of a job in days (every cloud has a silver lining). But if the ex-Middlesbrough boss and his coma-inducing post-match interviews are soon consigned to history, who will take over from the ruddy-faced Sandman?
Never fear, a shortlist was drawn up less than a year ago, so letâ€™s just review those candidates and how they’ve fared since – if you have your own suggestions, pop them in the comments:
Oh dear. Could it be just a year ago that he was being talked about as a man who would be at the top of the management game for seasons to come. The FA have certainly been very keen to get him involved in the England set-up. But under Pearce, Man City donâ€™t seem to have any game plan and you couldnâ€™t imagine him having the tactical nous to combat half-decent international opposition. Heâ€™s hardly got an eye for a player either. Pearce has assembled a strike force of Bernardo Corradi, Georgio Samaras, Paul Dickov and Darius Vassell. Mercy me, thatâ€™s a limp quartet. Theyâ€™ve scored eight league goals between them. Opposition defenders would be more intimidated by a pot of natural yoghurt. It makes me shudder to think which attackers he would have in the England squad â€“ Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey, Alan Smith and, well, Darius Vassell.
Oh dear, oh dear. With Charlton at the bottom of the table early in the season without him, Curbishleyâ€™s stock had never been higher. Then he returned to management. West Ham have played worse under him than they did under Pardew, despite spending a lot of money on â€˜improvingâ€™ the squad with players who were desperate to fight for the cause and were in no way interested in cashing in for a few months. Their dodgy win over Blackburn was their first since Curbishleyâ€™s opening game three months before. There are two other concerns about Curbishley. Firstly, his ability to handle pressure was questioned at the time of the England manager interviews and has become exposed in the worrying â€˜take his belt off himâ€™ body language that he has displayed this year. Secondly, his motivational powers are suspect. He seemed to quickly alienate some of the players at West Ham and at Charlton his team would regularly make a great start to the season, only to then completely slump. Outside of Santaâ€™s grotto and the Cliff Richard household, nobody took it easier at work after Christmas more than Curbishleyâ€™s Charlton.
Martin Oâ€™ Neill
Oâ€™ Neill has escaped criticism this season because of his past achievements, but Aston Villaâ€™s recent record means that his magic isnâ€™t as strong as it was when things got underway. After a good start to the season, Villa have only won twice (at home against Watford and West Ham) since beating Everton on 11th November. Villa currently have their lowest points total (33) after 29 games than they have ever had before in the Premiership.
Allardyce is the only British manager on the shortlist whose reputation hasnâ€™t waned because of his teamâ€™s performances this season. Instead, heâ€™s been accused on national television of taking bungs. Now I see nothing at all shady about having your son act as a commission paid intermediary for transfer dealings involving your club, but the FA will be keen to avoid any hint of controversy after Sven, Hoddle and Venables all generated bad publicity. And anyway, lumping the ball long to a target man and trying to nick a goal on a set piece didnâ€™t work for England in the World Cup, so why try it again?
If only weâ€™d got Big Phil. What would life be like with him as England manager? Well, maybe not that much different really as, like England, Portugal have got seven points from four games in their qualifying group having played Poland, Finland, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Still, the post-match interviews would have been a lot more entertaining and we’d get to call him “Big Phil”.
Clearly, what England needs is a manager who has the experience of managing players at the top level.
Unfortunately the only Englishmen who fit that bill are from a past generation, many of them having managed England in the past, and have since quietly faded away or made quite a spectacle of themselves. Bobby Robson admits to loving the chance to manage England again, but age and ill health make him unsuitable. Kevin Keegan was big enough to admit that he didnâ€™t have what it takes to be England manager. Graham Taylor didnâ€™t admit this, but the same applies to him. Terry Venables admitted (or no contested) 19 allegations of improper business conduct made against him by the Department of Trade and Industry, but denies any wrongdoing at Portsmouth (where he bought a 51% controlling interest in the club for Â£1 before leaving after less than a year with Portsmouth at the bottom of the First Division and his company Vencorp having received a Â£300,000 â€˜performanceâ€™ bonus). Glen Hoddle admitted to some disturbing views on disabled people to a national newspaper (allegedly), then denied them. And Ron Atkinson admits to going to tanning sessions with David Dickinson and sharing an enjoyment of tiddlywinks with him (itâ€™s true). He denies being a racist, but not surprisingly the Trinidad & Tobago players vetoed him becoming their manager. He now learns French with Esther Rantzen and undermines previously successful lower league managers in the name of entertainment.
All of which means that if a new England manager is needed in the foreseeable future he should not be English. Looking at the people who could be available and do a decent job, Oâ€™ Neill is still a strong candidate. Expect to see him clear out several players at Villa this summer and form a much improved team next season. The World Cup winning coach, Marcello Lippi, has said he want to return to management in the 2007/2008 season and is superb at getting star individuals to play as a team. And then there is Fabio Capello, who is expected to be looking for work soon and has expressed interest in the England job. Now slating other managers for their teamâ€™s performances and praising Capello might seem unfair, but Real Madridâ€™s season is a rare blip (and hardly disastrous being just five points off the top). Capello can claim to be the most successful manager in football having won trophies with AC Milan, Roma, Juventus and Real Madrid. Whatâ€™s more, he is someone who is prepared to change his formation to suit the players available and is not afraid to leave out big name players.
Steve McClaren’s reign will continue to be a mixed blessing. We want him to win the next two matches to qualify England, but then that would mean we’re stuck with him. Nothing better than a lose-lose situation to make supporting your country extra fun.