Who’d be the most hated man in England?


How do we choose the next England manager? We no longer turn to a committee of octogenarian football administrators, but there are always the sports editors of the tabloid press, TV pundits and Glenn Hoddle’s spiritual healer. And if they can’t help, says Luke Harvey, we could do better than consult ancient Chinese history …

The empire, long divided must unite; long united must divide.

Perhaps a quote taken from Jonathan Hu’s novel recalling the 206 BC-220 AD period of ancient China needs a bit of a stretch to apply to today’s England national football team. But in my view, it can be used to offer an accurate portrayal of a collection of footballers in utter disarray.

When we picked up the pieces from Steve McClaren’s disastrous reign as England manager, the divided England empire would then be united under the tricolour of Italy, the green, white and red of Fabio Capello’s home nation. In came a clichéd “no-nonsense man” – undoubtedly to improve the squad following the “nonsense man” who preceded him.

And with the managerial change, English hopes were also renewed. The World Cup would definitely be coming home with us in 2010 as England would reign supreme again. Our empire was well and truly united.

But just as cracks began to surface within the fragile Han dynasty of ancient China, they began to show too within our own united empire. The John Terry and Ashley Cole scandals surfaced; David Beckham got injured; we lacked a top class goalkeeper; the hopes of a nation rested squarely on one potato-faced striker and finally Rio Ferdinand’s tournament ended just before it could start.

By the time the team was dumped out of the World Cup at the hands of the ruthless and unmerciful Germans, our empire was well and truly divided once more. When the Han dynasty collapsed, in excess of 20 rulers vied to unite the land. Those rulers have their modern day counterparts: the Harry Redknapps, Roy Hodgsons, Sam Allardyces and… er… Steve Coppells if you believe some sick and twisted bookmaker’s mind.

Harry Redknapp, having tried to remain respectfully quiet about the manager’s job throughout the duration of the World Cup, could contain himself no longer. As the arms of the players, managers, fans and media criss-crossed in pointing fingers of blame at one another; Redknapp quietly auditioned himself for the job, starting in his column in The Sun.

“What English man wouldn’t want the job?” Well my first guess would be Steve McClaren, and my second guess would be reserved for any sane human being who doesn’t want the press camping on his lawn and becoming a national hate figure.

In fact, Harry Redknapp approached the situation with all the dignity and respect of – well – Harry Redknapp. Will he take the job having guided Tottenham to Champions’ League football? I’m sure whoever offers him the most money will end up getting his undivided attention.

Roy Hodgson is set to turn down the chance to be hated by the nation and will instead opt to just being hated within Liverpool. Martin O’Neill is Northern Irish, which somewhat backtracks on our jingoistic belief that we must have an English manager once more. Furthermore, Sam Allardyce is too dull, David Beckham too dumb, and Steve Coppell too dire to become the manager of a nation.

And anyone who thinks that any of the aforementioned managers could inspire our collection of players any more so than Capello could manage is wrong.

Yes, the flaws of the team and formation could be seen in the Mexico and Japan matches prior to the World Cup – two teams who reached the same stage as us no less. Yes, Capello opted to overlook Darren Bent which did not endear him to Sunderland fans whatsoever. And yes, our team step off the plane as humiliated losers.

But we could do a lot worse than Capello, and if we replace him now, I have no doubt that we will.

I agree that there should be a change of personnel. Just I believe it should be in the boardroom and on the pitch – just not on the sidelines. The FA wants shaken up, the players just want shaken but I’d rather have Capello in charge than Messrs Redknapp, Allardyce et al.

Fabio Capello; you have my backing. I like to think that is at least of equal value to you as similar words of the lips of Phil Gartside.

15 thoughts on “Who’d be the most hated man in England?”

  1. The German model is certainly a good one to follow. The problem with the FA is that they are completely out of step with the grim reality of the situation and the general public’s view of the shambles they continue to preside over, singing Rule Britannia while the wall come tumbling down.

    I’m not quite sure when the Germans realised that things weren’t working. They’ve reached seven WC Finals since and including 1966 while England have continually lauded that fact for close to a quarter of a century, and considering ourselves somehow equal rivals to them. It’s an insult to German football to do that. You are right about targeting youth development and I agree that it’s a complete waste of money throwing it at adults. To get there though there needs to be a sea change in thinking, and that requires getting rid of the old farts that make up the FA.

    England has become a third world nation in international football terms by relying on a single episode of ancient history and taking that as the standard. Arrogance, combined with ridiculous expectation hasn’t helped either. Looking at the faces of those representing the country as they stood for the national anthem, it was clear that they didn’t have a lot of pride, self belief or enthusiasm for the task in hand. Contrast this to the clear pride, puffed out chests and tears wellling at the privilege they had been given of other nations and its embarrassing.

    It was Canada Day here yesterday and I found myself stood in a park coming up to 10-00pm as the band played their last song. They put down their instruments and the singer said “Are you all ready for some fireworks?’ to which the crowd roared their approval. “It wouldn’t be Canada Day without “Oh Canada”” he said to which everyone rose from their deck chairs to pay their respects, and to honour the country they call home. A very simple act of respect, to be thankful for this lovely country that I have the pleasure to call home. No jingoism, or unsavoury aspect to it. I couldn’t recall ever seeing anything quite like this is England/Britain ever. It might help if we got rid of that stupid anthem of course, paying homage to an anachronism in the modern world.

  2. Well Luke I think I’d agree with you if I had confidence that the coaching system will work. I don’t see many Premiership clubs made up of English players who come up through the ranks. Of course that can change and I hope that in 5 years or so we see 50% or more players in the top flight qualified to play for a British Isles national side.

  3. And on an aside. This is an interesting thing to note in some sense (and we could do no harm in replicating it somewhat):

    Germany, some years ago, realised that their success wasn’t coming on the pitch. To help this they ploughed money into their youth set-up and are beginning to reap the rewards. Look at their team – an average of 24. The likes of Neuer, Badstuber, Khedira, Ozil, Muller etc. They are coming through thick and fast it seems – they’re making the jump from U21 to the full squad straight away and are succeeding.

    Another example, a different sport but we’re staying closer to home this time:

    The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association/governing body of British tennis) are undoubtedly under scrutiny for year-on-year failings of British tennis players. This year our worst yet. (1 player made the second round in the mens and ladies singles).

    A couple of years ago they were throwing money at the players who were in their 20’s, ranked 2-5 or so in Britain and about 150-500 in the world (that’s how bad it is). After a couple of years they quickly cottoned on that throwing money at players that age was wasting money – imagine it as signing some average player from Gillingham aged 23 and expecting him to become brilliant under out tutelage.

    Now, the LTA are investing their money into the junior players, aged around 12-16, and then up to 18 or so too. They are beginning to reap the rewards as we seem to have year-on-year improvements within the junior ranks of the game. Names like Oliver Golding and Laura Robson may not mean much now, but in 5 years or so they may be some of the most talked about British tennis players around.

    The FA could do no harm in identifying their faults in the youth set up and investing heavily in it. If you are right, Mark, and Henderson has been earmarked as 1 of 20 then this is a good thing – assuming this ‘fast tracking’ is a new scheme and not something we’ve clearly been failing at for years.

    In the meantime the FA will have to endure abuse from the media and fans as we wait for these youngsters to come good, but they might as well bite the bullet now and invest in the future players to help nurture the brightest young English talents – for the sake of the game.

    In some respects though, I imagine the FA would probably just bite an actual bullet and blow their own heads off.

  4. Apparently Henderson is one of 20 young English players earmarked for fast tracking to the senior squad. That’s the revolution we need but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  5. The raft of managers awaiting to replace him.

    Allardyce, Redknapp etc. They wouldn’t have got us any further than the last 16. They just wouldn’t.

    And personally I’m happy with Pearce as U21 boss. At least we have a modicum of success at that level, even if it is due to our higher physical levels over other countries.

    DaveyB: Allardyce? Really? The last thing I want to see from England is more long ball and tapping the opponents ankles for 90 minutes. I could never get excited for an England match again.

    Personally I was happy with Sven, was disappointed when he got the chop to be honest. Apparently he didn’t show enough passion according to my own friends, so he had to go. Rubbish.

    We’d have snapped at hands from a QF this year given the way we looked.

    Out with the tried and failed, in with the new. It’s time Jordan Henderson got noticed by an international scout.

  6. “But we could do a lot worse than Capello, and if we replace him now, I have no doubt that we will.”


    Who could possibly have done worse than that? A single win against Slovenia, the worst defeat in World Cup history and one goal from any of the “strikers” in four games.

    I’m not sure who you have in mind who could possibly have done worse than that. It’s bloody abysmal and indefensible. If this how far standards have slipped. He should have been drummed out of town when the whistle went on Sunday.

  7. Salut Sunderland asks contributing fans of opposing teams the “club or country” question. Generally speaking, in line with most of us I should think, the majority put supporting their club first. Now I’m not a bosom buddy of any high earning Premiership players but just how much does it actually mean to them to play for their country?

    An Irish international once said “Why should I break my leg playing for a couple of hundred quid and a cap that doesn’t fit!” I am sure there are still genuine footballers out there who take a pride in playing for their country, but I can’t help but feel that the many of the overpaid so called stars, who are so far up their own backsides, see it as a distraction they could well do without. Encouraged by their clubs who don’t like risking their assets in a (to them) meaningless friendly in case they aren’t available for the important games which generate the mega bucks. Namely Champions League or any league matches which may lead to European qualification.

    Am I wrong to think that there was lack of desire, passion and commitment by many of the England team? Because if they take more pride in their cinema sized flat screen 3D TVs in their understated little pieds a terre in Alderley Edge, than they do in winning the World Cup, it doesn’t really matter who the manager is. Capello may still be the best man for the job but his selections and formations would lead me to question his judgement. As for the rest, I’d say go for the one who picks players with desire, even if that means a squad selected from the lower divisions.

    I’d rather see a team of full of Dean Whiteheads and Kevin Balls than English versions of Torre Andre Flo and Thomas Helmer.

  8. Football fan dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter offers to show him around and he notices there are soccer fields everywhere and games going on. “Oh, yes,” says St. Peter. “We have a lot of notable players here. Look, there’s Brian Clough. Nice guy when you get to know him. Maybe he’ll give you a game.”
    They walk a bit farther and the fan says, “Wow, is that Stanley Matthews?”
    “Yes,” says St. Peter. “Still as good as ever. And there’s Len Shackleton, warming up.”
    They walk on and suddenly the fan says, “Good grief, there’s Wayne Rooney. I didn’t know he was dead!”
    And St. Peter says, “No, no, that’s God. He only THINKS he’s Wayne Rooney.”

  9. A guy walks into a brothel and says to the madam im a bit kinky how much for total humiliation the madam says $90 he replies what do i get for that she says this brand new england shirt

  10. Sorry to people posting for the first time here who had to await moderation (a posh way of saying the comment remains “pending” until I get round to distinguishing it from the torrent of spam that pours this way too.

  11. Consideration has to be given, too, to the £12 million it would cost to sever his contract. That’s a lot of money to pay simply to return yourself to square one.

  12. As much as we N East fans villify Allardyce – you can’t tell me that he wouldn’t have done a better job than Capello in S Africa !
    You just have to look at the way he transformed Blackburn from relegation candidates to mid table performers last season
    You might not like the type of football he produces but it couldn’t be any worse than that shambles we have just witnessed in SA

  13. Physco has my vote. He is brave/crazy enough to take the job on, he understands English pride and what it means to the fans to see a solid 100% performance regardless of the result and he already has the experience of club management and his involvement in the England setup for a number of years. I really feel that the players would enjoy playing for him and the new youth and future players will look up to him and know him from the under 21 set up. Being English, we are used to losing but it would be nice to see an English team go out onto the pitch and graft their b**ocks off and fight for their pride and respect!

  14. Great read, Luke. I take your point, but the manager has to take some responsibility for the dire performances in South Africa. He selected the squad and created the atmosphere that appeared to be so negative. I think that there is a lot more to come out about the prolems in camp.
    Who else could take the job on? That is a tricky one. I think Capello should go, but I also think that the FA will kep him on in the absence of any realistic alternative. What a mess English football is in when the likes of Redknapp and Allardyce are even considered for the post of national manager.

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