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England’s Next Manager in Waiting

Now that we all know who England will face in next summer’s UEFA European Championships following the draw at the Palace of Arts in Kiev early today, the nation will inevitably commence a pre-tournament journey mixed with uncertainty, excitement and expectation. One thing that appears to be more certain is that at some point next summer the England Manager’s position will be vacated by the present incumbent, Fabio Capello. Capello’s current employers at the FA have made it clear that it is their intention to ensure his replacement and 16th post war manager is from these shores.

Since Sir Alf Ramsey guided England to World Cup glory 45 years ago, England have largely failed to make a significant impact in the major international competitions. Indeed, during that time, England have failed to beat any of the so called super-powers of world or European football in the knock-out stages of a major competition.  Even two experiments with highly distinguished foreign managers in the last ten years have failed to reverse England’s fortunes.

Given the FA’s desire to look closer to home for the next England manager, the question remains is there a man with a British passport capable of fulfilling the hopes and dreams of a nation of perennial sufferers.

As we edge towards the year end and head into a new dawn of optimism, five potential candidates have emerged, each of reasonable pedigree. Each have a good case for being considered but equally, one could find a reasonable blot on each of their copybooks to render them a non-starter. Here is an assessment of each candidate with the case for and against.

Harry Redknapp 

Harry is the overwhelming favourite and one suspects that if this was purely a footballing decision, this would be a complete no-brainer, particularly if as has been suggested, a key part of the selection criteria is that the candidate has to be British. Harry has emerged as a manager of substantial flair and since departing his role as manager of West Ham ten years ago, his star has risen beyond recognition. He has shaken off his once, rather unfair reputation of being a wheeler-dealer happy go lucky manager and is now considered one of the finest in the game at this present moment. Aside from the considerable success he enjoyed at his two spells at Portsmouth, his more recent impact at Tottenham has been nothing short of outstanding, not only for the results achieved but also for his brand of attacking football. Moreover, he has become only the second English manager to lead an English team into the Champions League (the other being the late Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle) and in beating both Milan giants and reaching  the quarter-finals at their first attempt, exceeded all expectations. Following Tottenham’s incredible shoulder rubbing exercise with Europe’s elite last season, Harry has proved he has the tactical acumen to manage at the very highest level. At 64 years old he is probably the perfect age to take on the challenge of the national team boss and would instantly have the support and respect of many of the players, fans and crucially the press.

However, Harry would appear to come with some baggage. Over his managerial career he has had to deal with his fair share of off the pitch scandals, the most recent being a charge of two counts of cheating the public revenue, along with his former Portsmouth Chairman Milan Mandarić.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Redknapp along with Mandaric, will face a trial commencing on 23 January 2012, over tax evasion.

Since the announcement of his trial, Redknapp has also had to undergo surgery for a heart condition and the stress of the situation and the potential for it to rob him of his dream job as England manager looks to be taking its toll on him. One worries that his fate may end up like an earlier predecessor and fellow eastender, Terry Venables, who was forced to cut short his reign as England boss at the end of Euro 96. The combination of the damage sustained to his reputation and the potential bad smell this will leave on the FA, along with his recent health problems may ultimately prove to be his undoing.

Achievements:           Highly impressive particularly in his two spells at Portsmouth and more recently at Tottenham. 8/10

Tactical awareness:   Proved in last season’s CL competition that he has what it takes to win matches at the highest level. Said to be a first class man-manager too. 8/10

Public Relations:        Would be a very popular choice with many fans and possibly many players. He has become a very popular figure amongst the press and the media for his willingness to give interviews. 9/10

Off the pitch profile:  Could be his stumbling block, with his forthcoming court case set to undermine his candidacy. 4/10

Overall credibility score:      73%


Stuart Pearce

As a player Stuart Pearce’s love and passion for representing his country was unquestionable. It is perhaps for this reason above any other that he was appointed as the national under 21 manager in 2007, initially on a part time basis along with his full-time role as Manchester City manager. Following his departure from City in 2007, Pearce was asked to form part of Fabio Capello’s coaching staff in 2008 and many assumed him as the heir apparent to Capello. It also appeared to mark a deliberate move by the FA to replicate the succession planning model often deployed successfully by many European countries.

In the early stages of his time in charge of the Under 21’s, Pearce enjoyed a fair degree of success. He guided them to the semi-final of the UEFA Under 21’s championships in 2007, losing to the eventual winners the Netherlands on penalties. In 2009 he went one better, taking them to the final where they lost out to Germany. This seemed to cement his growing reputation and working along side such an experienced, legend such as Capello, Pearce seemed destined to replace Capello once it was announced that he would be leaving his post at the end of the Euro 2012 campaign.

However, the ill fated 2010 World Cup campaign and his less distinguished 2011 UEFA Under 21 campaign seem to have pushed Pearce further down the pecking order.

Achievements:           Although his record at club level is at best modest, he has guided the Under 21’s to a UEFA championship semi-final and a final and will be familiar with many of the next generation of England players whom he has worked with over the past 5 years. 6/10

Tactical awareness:   Despite his early successes with the Under 21 team and having worked with such an accomplished tactician as Fabio Capello for the past three years, his team’s performances in this year’s UEFA U-21 tournament has cast a shadow of doubt over his tactical awareness. 6/10

Public Relations:        Hugely popular as a player where he endeared himself to the England fans for his public display of passion on the pitch, particularly in an England shirt. Been selected as co-Manager of GB team in London Olympics 2012. Still popular amongst many sections of the press. 7/10

Off the pitch profile:  Away from football Pearce has largely avoided any major controversy and would by now be very familiar with FA protocols and values. 9/10

Overall credibility score:      70%


Roy Hodgson

When Roy Hodgson guided Fulham to the final of the 2010 UEFA Cup Final it marked the pinnacle in a remarkable transformation from a team that were just 45 minutes away from relegation the previous season.

Hodgson’s miraculous act of escapology at Fulham had come after steadily gaining a reputation for being a master tactician, principally abroad. He was the national team manager for Switzerland when they competed in the opening game of Euro 96 at Wembley against England, thus marking him out as the only credible British born candidate to have managed at international level. In additional he managed the Finland national team to their highest ever FIFA ranking in 2006/07. In between spells working in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Hodgson also managed the mighty Inter Milan for two seasons in the mid nineties.

Hodgson’s exploits at Fulham led to many observers tipping him to be a future candidate for England manager, but once Liverpool ended Rafael Benitez’s tenure in charge in June 2010, Hodgson was quickly installed as favourite to succeed him. Hodgson was appointed Liverpool manager the following month, but he was never universally endorsed by the Liverpool fans, who favoured club legend Kenny Dalglish. Hodgson did very little to endear himself to the fans after appearing to criticise their lack of support for the team once results started to go pear-shaped.  He paid the ultimate price in December 2010, just six months into the job, but quickly got back into management at West Bromwich Albion and instantly steered them towards Premier League survival and thus restoring his reputation.

Achievements:           Comes with an impressive CV and a 35-year history as a manager. Has managed in eight different countries and has the distinction of international management experience. 7/10

Tactical awareness:   Prior to his short spell at Liverpool he was seen as a shrewd tactician. He has served on UEFA and FIFA technical committees, however results and performances whilst at Liverpool were sub-standard. Has since regained credibility as a tactician since taking over at West Brom. 8/10

Public Relations:        Although clearly a eloquent speaking and intelligent man, he does not enjoy a great profile amongst fans, many of whom see him as lacking in charisma. Would have little popular support as first choice for England manager. Could also be an easy target for the fans and the press if results went against him. 3/10

Potential skeletons:   Enjoys a good profile off the pitch and the fact that he is multi-lingual (speaking five different languages) would add to his appeal to the FA, although he has not always enjoyed a strong relationship with them. 8/10

Overall credibility score:      65%

Alan Pardew

Twelve months ago, Pardew was in the managerial wilderness having been dismissed by Southampton, who at the time were languishing in the third tier of English football.  Prior to that he endured another unsuccessful spell at Charlton Athletic, and therefore many believed the initial potential to be a top level manager of the future observed by many following successful spells at Reading and West Ham, was a thing of the past. However, he was surprisingly thrown a managerial lifeline by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley who controversially appointed him as his replacement for Chris Houghton. His appointment in December 2010 was not welcomed by the majority of the Newcastle fans but undeterred he guided them to a respectable mid-table position at the end of his first season in charge.

One third into the 2011/12 season and Newcastle have remained in the top five all season and have only lost to league leaders Manchester City. This has been despite selling three of last season’s most consistent players, Andy Carroll, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan. Pardew has shown that he has the capability to organise and prepare a team and engender a fantastic team spirit as well as adequately handle strong personalities, which is not something that recent England managers can say.

However, Pardew has never managed at the very highest level and his greatest achievements to date have been nothing more than two promotions to the Premier League with Reading and West ham United respectively. He has yet to win any silverware, although he gained a lot of credibility for reaching the FA cup final in 2006, narrowly losing to Liverpool on penalties. Managing England will be a completely different proposition and the pressures of getting the best out of high profile players will be new territory for him.

Achievements:           Although he has enjoyed a fine start to the season with Newcastle, his achievements as a manager have been largely limited to lower league success at Reading and West Ham. 6/10

Tactical awareness:   Has earned high praise for the manner in which he has organised his Newcastle team and for their sound defensive qualities. 7/10

Public Relations:        Many fans are likely to have misgivings about a man that is yet to have achieved any significant success. For the same reasons he would have to achieve instant results to win a sure to be sceptical press over. 4/10

Off the pitch profile:  Although he has yet to be embroiled in any significantly damaging scandals he recently came under criticism for his choice of vocabulary when working as TV pundit, leading to misgivings about his abilities to adequately deal with the press. 6/10

Overall credibility score:      58%

Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate would be many observers outside bet but in recent weeks has been mentioned in dispatches as a suitable candidate. Although he has yet to distinguish himself in football management, he would be seen by the FA as a credible candidate given his very clean-cut, articulate and statesmanlike image in front of the media. He was recently appointed by the FA as their Head of Elite Development, which is a role that many are still struggling to understand and those that do are struggling to understand why it was given to Southgate.

Like Pearce, Southgate served club and country with distinction, passion and pride. He performed well during the euphoric Euro 96 campaign and although it was his penalty miss against Germany in the semi-final that saw England miss out on a place in the final, he won over many with his competent performances in the centre of England’s defence throughout the tournament. He went on to earn 57 caps for England and that penalty miss apart, rarely let his country down when wearing an England shirt.

Southgate is now seen as more as an FA man than a manager of repute and should he upset the odds and make it as the next England manager, would no doubt be viewed as being down to his relationship with the FA rather than his achievements as a manager. Like Howard Wilkinson before him he has become something of an ‘establishment favourite’ but unlike Wilkinson he does not have any silverware or major managerial achievements to add to his managerial CV, which one suspects would not make him a popular choice outside of the FA. 

Achievements:           Southgate is the one and only candidate that has suffered relegation, when at Middlesbrough and also has the least managerial experience. 3/10

Tactical awareness:   Although he was an accomplished player, he is completely unproven as a manager, although Middlesbrough did claim some notable scalps during his time there as the manager. 4/10

Public Relations:        Like Hodgson, Southgate is known to be an intelligent and articulate man and rarely let’s himself down when in front of the camera. His lack of managerial experience would make him an easy target for the ruthless press. 5/10

Potential skeletons:   Southgate would appear to have an excellent profile away from the pitch and enjoys a good reputation as Mr Clean-cut. 9/10

Overall credibility score:      53%

Wayne Wiggins @Wayne_Wiggins



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