For all those that are English, in one way or another, it’s been a terrible few weeks. Regardless of your feeling toward the outcome of the referendum, nobody saw a defeat to minnows Iceland as a likely result in the Euros.
Following arguably the most embarrassing defeat in English footballing history – at a time when we really didn’t need any additional spotlight on a European stage – the blame game began. “The manager hasn’t got a clue,” “Our defence is useless,” “We have no formation,” “Our players aren’t technically good enough,” the list goes on and on. Eager to avoid as much of the national inquest as possible, England manager Roy Hodgson, along with coaching staff Gary Neville and Ray Lewington, immediately resigned.
In a swift post-match conference, Roy thanked the players for their commitment, as well as thanking the FA and the fans for their support. Unfortunately for Roy, nothing he could’ve said would have made any difference to how we, the fans, were feeling. Iceland? ******* ICELAND?! Are you bloody sure Roy?
Having taken a collective breath, we can now begin casting our eyes upon who we should give – or indeed who would want – the poisoned chalice of the England manager. Below are our top four prudent picks for who’d do a better job than Hodgson (not that that’s a difficult accomplishment to achieve anyway).
One of the names floating about since Hodgson’s departure has been former France and PSG manager Laurent Blanc. Although not being from the UK – which has increasingly become a requirement for the position now – Blanc has experience of English football and culture, developed during his time at Manchester United in the early noughties. More importantly, though, Blanc has already coached at international level and is accustomed to picking up the ashes of a team in disarray. The French national team was in absolute bits after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, following a dreadful showing and a player mutiny. Blanc stepped in and steadied the ship, and proceeded to get France to the quarter-finals of the 2012 European Championships where they were knocked out by an almost unbeatable Spanish team. At current odds of 29/1, it’s definitely worth putting a cheeky bet on Blanc being at the helm come to the 2018 Russian World Cup.
What a signing this would be. Having recently been relinquished from his duties at Manchester City, the FA would do well to have a gamble on persuading Pellegrini to become the England boss. Pellegrini is used to pressuring and managing huge egos, as he has demonstrated during his time in England. His knowledge and experience of the English league will also undoubtedly help him navigate the tricky squad selection phase, as he won’t need weeks and weeks to get familiar with developing players such as Marcus Rashford and John Stones. Pellegrini’s tactical pragmatism will be a huge advantage to England, who currently tend to pick the best players and try to shoehorn them all in at once instead of finding the best players to suit a formation. In my eyes, the Chilean would prove an astute managerial choice, and is my personal favourite for the top spot – bear in mind, I have been wrong before.
Manchester United and England legend Gary Neville announced his departure along with Hodgson, but may consider having a go in the boss’ chair. Neville has the playing experience at the top level but lacks managerial know-how on a similar footing, which could be a concern. What also may prove to be a sticking point is Neville’s (there’s no other word for it) abysmal few months in charge as Valencia boss. Added to this is the fact that Neville was around for England’s terrible performances during the Hodgson reign, so cannot be completely absolved of any responsibilities here. It is clear from his time as an analyst and commentator for Sky Sports that no one comes close to Neville when it comes to tactical analysis and dissecting when, where, how and why goals were scored. However, the question of whether he can communicate these messages to players effectively still hangs over his head. The FA would perhaps like for Neville to get more experience as a No. 1 before trusting him with their biggest job.
Out of nowhere ‘Big Sam’ has become the front-running Englishman in the eyes of the FA. Allardyce has proven himself as a solid premier league manager over the years. He consistently brings stability to any club he coaches – quickly establishing and imposing a style of football that works, and then purchasing players to fit the system. It’s a procedure that Allardyce rinses and repeats, but it works. Ignoring the fact that Big Sam is usually only looked to as a last result for a club on the brink of relegation, this appointment actually wouldn’t be too bad. No longer will we enter a tournament with no clue who the manager will pick or what formation he’ll play. Consistency is the major key as far as Allardyce is concerned, with the same players playing in the same system likely to be the result. Big Sam as the boss could see the return of the ‘big man, little man’ striking partnership that we’ve seen him employ at so many clubs over the years, and an almost inevitable reselection of Jermain Defoe (you laugh, but don’t bet against it). Although Allardyce may be seen as a sensible choice to some, if Allardyce is your best option for national team coach there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. It’s clear that wholesale change is needed in the coaching development ranks if we are to blood our own, and it could be seen as demotivating if “one of our own” can’t even be trusted with the national team. This though is definitely one job that I wouldn’t mind going to a foreigner.