Surely the number one candidate for the England job and his recent comments should have sent alarm bells ringing among most when he suggested bringing Paul Scholes out of international retirement and persisting with the ‘golden generation’ that has failed so spectacularly in the past. Well not for the media’s favourite son Harry Redknapp, who at this moment can do or say no wrong. But is this what the country really want, and should the upcoming Euros be seen as more of a preparation for the next World Cup rather than the extremely unlikely chance of winning an international tournament this year?
Is was pleasant to see Harry Redknapp in high spirits during his pre-game press conference last week after his “nightmarish” previous two weeks. The suggestion that the media were already trying to get him out of the England job before he’d even got it raised a pleasant reaction from all in attendance. But when one of the world’s best coaches could not turn England’s fortunes around, even after he’d kept to his word and lowered the average age of the England squad, why are there not raised eyebrows and question marks over Redknapp’s early talk of who he’d bring in or keep in the England set up. The media, fans and whoever else decided to jump on the anti-Capello bandwagon, chased the Italian manager out of the job with pitchforks and torches raised over the heads because he was seemingly inadequate for the job—a total disregard for his previous successes abroad. Well what exactly does Redknapp bring to the table that Capello couldn’t—other than being best mates with all the players.
Even though Capello also tried to venture down this avenue in the past, do we really need to see Paul Scholes in an England shirt again? Michel Salgado commented in his recent column in FourFourTwo that this country likes to bring in former players when they’ve moved on from their clubs for one reason or another. Along with their qualities, they also bring a sense of nostalgia and a little bit of hope; but something like that would never be done in Spain. And that is the fundamental difference: other nations are not afraid of moving on into new eras and possibly establishing new ways of playing that suits their current squads. Instead the nation and it’s managers are desperately clinging onto something that is safe and familiar, even though it didn’t always work.
The failings of Fabio Capello are not attributed to his lack of ability as a manager, even if his methods were unpopular. He failed, in the eyes of most, because the England squad is poor. So what hope does Harry Redknapp have? Even though he might add something a little different to what Capello brought to the table, there’s no guarantee that his arm-around-the-shoulder approach will be a success with this group of players. Harry Redknapp has done exceptionally well to get his Tottenham side playing good football while racking up the points; but importantly he has also got them working. How much work ethic will there be from a group of players who are persistently called up to the England squad yet fail to deliver when it matters? The core of the squad that has been in place for so long needs refreshing, just in the same way that fresh ideas were so desperately called for from the managerial position.
Aside from the man-management aspect of the coaching, should Harry Redknapp not take responsibility in breaking up the poisonous and disruptive atmosphere that has surrounded the England camp for so long? John Terry, arguably, has no place in the England squad for the Euros or beyond following his demotion from captaincy. Not only does it create hostilities between current regulars in the England squad, but it has the chance of spilling over into the next generation of England players who have every chance of doing more for the national side that the current squad have done.
It would be extremely refreshing to see Redknapp—should he get the job—give the squad a much-needed facelift. It’s extremely unlikely that England will win the tournament in the summer, not just because of the quality of other nations, but because of the lack of preparation the manager will have; so why not take this opportunity to give the squad a new look and allow the younger players the chance to experience a big tournament ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. A failure to reach the semi-finals, for example, should not be seen as a poor tournament for a younger squad in the springtime of their careers. But what is vital is that they be given the chance to experience the Euros without the negative input of current members of the squad. It will be a positive learning experience that will only strengthen England’s ambitions for a successful World Cup.
Harry Redknapp may be the right candidate for the job from a very small pool of likely candidates, but it is so important that he doesn’t just come in and continue with what has failed the team over the past decade. Talk of Paul Scholes’ ability in comparison to current Spanish internationals is not a positive move and will only be used as a stick to beat the manager when the team fails this summer. Move on from the stale and predictable players that have done very little over the years and introduce a foundation of younger, hungrier players that will take this opportunity with both hands.
The obsession to change the manager when things aren’t going well for England starts to become a tired exercise when the real problem is identified in the squad. Fresh ideas and changes in the dugout should be complemented by fresh faces and changes in the starting XI. Until that happens, the national side is likely to carry on the cycle of continued failure.
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