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.