FIVE contenders for the ‘Hardest Job’ in football

Fabio Capello confirmed last week that he will leave his post as England manager after the conclusion of the Euro 2012 tournament. In recent times the FA has acted like an overtly ambitious Premier League outfit, desperately seeking silverware and pursuing managers will glittering track records. With nearly two years to plan their next move, the consensus seems to be that an English or at least a British manager is needed once more. No shortage of managers have been associated with the role which has been an impossible task for many years. Unrelenting media attention and an equally demanding public who expect glory are a heavy burden for any boss. Regardless of a numerous disappointments hope still prevails and here are five managers who may be the focus of that optimism at the next World Cup.

Harry Redknapp

Football’s equivalent of Harold Macmillan, who once famously told the voters that they had never had it so good, is the favourite to take over the reigns from Capello. The Tottenham boss is vastly experienced, having managed a number of clubs and achieving FA Cup glory with Portsmouth in 2008. The 63-year old also took Spurs from the relegation zone to the Champions League in the space of two short years. The manager who would be freed from accusations of being a ‘wheeler dealer,’ is a popular choice amongst the fans and has said the job would be difficult to reject. His strength is his unquestionable man management skills and his ability to lift the confidence of fragile stars. Players apparently paralysed by fear would presumably have not occurred under his stewardship.

Martin O’Neill

Currently a free agent after walking out of Villa Park, the Northern Irishman has spent huge swathes of his football career in England, playing under the legendary Brian Clough. In management the bespectacled gaffer won three SPL titles and one Scottish Cup with Celtic and two League Cups with Leicester City. More recently his Villa side recorded two successive sixth place finishes. His teams are always well organised and difficult to beat, retaining discipline throughout any contest. His tactical rigidity may count against him, as he invariably opted for a 4-4-2 formation at Villa with an onus on fast wingers and balls into the box. That conventional formation was widely scorned after England’s insipid World Cup performances.

Roy Hodgson

Fervently respected in the game, Hodgson is narrowly behind Redknapp in the bookmakers’ standings. International management is already well known by the 63-year old who took Switzerland to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup. The studious manager’s CV is as crammed as it is diverse, having managed across Europe and beyond, including two stints at Inter Milan. His reputation has been enhanced further by taking previously lowly Fulham to the Europa League final last season. The team’s rapid transformation was credited to the avuncular figure who made a habit of improving the fortunes of underperforming players. His successes have been mixed but he commands the respect of those he manages and allows players to express themselves on the pitch. The Herculean challenge of reviving Liverpool will determine whether he is one of the frontrunners in two years time.

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Pearce Under-21 England manager

Stuart Pearce

The current England Under-21 manager has been mentioned as a possible successor to Capello. Pearce is said to be flattered but has moved to distance himself from this speculation. He lacks the experience of Hodgson and Redknapp, having endured a trying time at Manchster City between 2005 and 2007. His side struggled for goals but as the Under-21 manager he has impressed, tutoring a number of talented young starlets who have progressed to the senior team. He coached the team to the 2009 UEFA Under-21 Championship final but lost resoundingly to Germany. England’s former captain is known for his passion and has assisted Capello at a major tournament. His appointment would ensure continuity as he would have managed many of the senior squad already come the next World Cup. It was a move which worked for Germany, having promoted assistant coach Joachim Loew to the senior role after Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure ended in 2006.

Sam Allardyce

His teams are often attacked for having a one dimensional style but Allardyce is more tactically astute than he is given credit for. An ill-fated period at St James’ Park is still a stain yet to be shifted on his otherwise impressive record in club management. His unremitting success at Bolton meant the Trotters were transformed into a fixed PL entity. On this basis he was interviewed for the vacant England manager job in 2006. His sterling work with Blackburn, who finished tenth last season, has seen his name bandied about once more. He has prospered on a tight budget by playing to his side’s strengths. His reaction to Capello’s omission of Paul Robinson ahead of the World Cup shows he is no diplomat and can lack judgement.

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