The Confusing Campaign For An English England Manager

It’s been a bugbear for many for a while now. You see, Fabio Capello just doesn’t understand. He isn’t English, he doesn’t grasp the English mentality, he doesn’t instil the fighting spirit that had previously driven our national side to decades of glory. The majority of our national sports journalists are unequivocal in the belief that the next England manager must be English – and judging by the comments of David Bernstein in the past, it seems that the FA agree.

Only, it seems that the rules are quite flexible – they are there to be bent. I was watching the Sunday Supplement on Sky at the weekend, and the selection of journalists in the studio were discussing the next England manager.

Broadsheet journalist Paul Hayward pushed for an English successor to Capello – or British. Apparently, it’s the same thing. He continued by quoting Gareth Southgate, who believes that international football should be the players and managers and supporters of one country against the players and managers and supporters of another country. Martin O’Neill was touted, as he was “effectively” English, having spent his whole life in English football (it would be pedantic of me to mention his five years as Celtic manager, or time out of the game).

Sorry to disappoint, but Martin O Neill is no more English than Fabio Capello. Maybe he understands what it takes to be an England manager more than Capello, who knows? Maybe he understands the mentality of your average England player, knows more about the passion involved, the words needed to inspire. Maybe. But then maybe Arsene Wenger does too, and he couldn’t be called upon due to his place of birth (not that he would be anyway).

There’s no right or wrong in believing that an England manager should be English – some believe, like Southgate, that all parts of the set up should be the nationality of the country they are managing/coaching/cleaning the kits for. Southgate went as far to claim the bus driver should be English too – I would hope that comment was tongue in cheek. If that’s your view, then fair enough. It’s not mine, but each to their own. Brian Woolnough commented on the Sunday Supplement that the fans wanted an English manager – I’m not sure how he knows this, but there you go. Funny though that there seems little outcry at foreign coaches managing other England/British teams, often leading them to glory – our phenomenal track cycling team, our cricket team, our Olympic-winning rowers. Is it unacceptable for them to be coached by foreigners, or do we ignore this because they tended to be rather successful?

The fact is that England players have to be English – the manager doesn’t. So why not utilise this and get the best man for the job? That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing millions of pounds at someone, I can agree that was foolish of the FA, but it does mean you get a much greater choice. After all, the choice of English managers is pretty pitiful – if the nailed-on successor to Capello is a man with one FA Cup to his name, then don’t expect world domination to follow. This preconception that getting an Englishman back at the helm will right all the wrongs is laughable, and ignores the fact that Eriksson and Capello have the best records of all English managers since 1966. Capello might not be the answer, but if he isn’t it’s not because he was born in the north-east of Italy. Redknapp might be great at talking to people (usually through a car window), and every Sun journalist will simultaneously orgasm should he get the job, but it’s unlikely the players will perform any better. Hayward argued that the £50m thrown at the last two England managers had proved foreign managers to be a failed experiment – poppycock. The money might have been wasted, but their lack of “success” cannot be used as a reason to return to an English manager, when they have performed as well as their English predecessors (Capello rather outperforming his predecessor, Eriksson doing likewise).

The FA is right to wait until after the summer to choose a successor. The truth may be linked to them wanting a manager who is due in court on tax evasion charges on January 23rd 2012 (having just left hospital with a heart problem). It wouldn’t look good to be courting him now would it? Also, England still has a manager, and public discussions over a successor could be construed badly, though Capello has made no secret of the fact he is going, so you could argue the FA has the right to look now, which they probably are very subtly.

But English it will be. Let’s give it a go – get Redknapp in, get David Beckham as his patriotic sidekick, let’s regain our passion for the national side, let’s give youth a chance, play to our strengths, let’s use that bulldog spirit. And then let’s go out on penalties in the quarter-final as usual – because the view that England must have an English manager is a perfectly fair one, but let’s not kid ourselves that it will solve all our problems.

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