The England National team is in a crisis!
Or at least that is what the tabloids want you to think. And of course they would, it sells papers and gets reads.
But this could not be further from the truth. In fact I reckon the exact opposite that this is not a crisis, but rather exactly where the English National team should want to be.
When Fabio Capello resigned this last week amid the controversy involving former captain John Terry, it was a woe-is-me situation for the FA, when they really should have embraced the fact that for the first time in over 50 years the pressure would be off.
Fair warning, I do not live in England or am a die hard supporter of the Three Lions, but I am pretty sure that I understand the game and culture enough to recognized it all changed on July 30, 1966 in London.
Geoff Hurst’s hat trick at the World Cup Final helped England to a 4-2 victory over Germany and gave them their first ever FIFA World Cup.
Since that time the expectations to a level that has them winning silverware in every contest they enter – from the 11 Euros since ’66 to the 50 plus British Home Championships.
However, those dreams have never been realized on the level fans would hope. Yes, proving you are the best country out of an area roughly the size of Wyoming is something that can get you giddy if this were still the days of colonialism, but it means little to the rest of the world.
Since Alf Ramsey was sacked in 1974, the English National team has tried many different men to recapture the glory of ’66, but all have failed.
Some were more effective, such as Bobby Robson who brought the team all the way to the semi-finals at the 1990 World Cup. Others such as Kevin Keegan did more harm than good in resurrecting that past.
And like so many, England’s most recent caretaker, the bold Italian Fabio Capello was touted as the man to reawaken the Three Lions.
Capello came to the English National team as a star of the Italian game. Titles as a player with Juventus and even more as a coach with them and AC Milan. A Champions League in 1994 and the man who brought Real Madrid their second to last La Liga in 2006-07.
He seemed the ideal man for such a position.
But was he? Does the simple fact that he has had success mean he will be successful in the future?
Ramsey won the World Cup through his system of “wingless wonders”. The tactic, which he experimented with at Ipswich, had the attack going through the middle of the pitch and using attacking midfielders who could also help out on the defensive end.
An idea that is common now was revolutionary back then and the reason they won the World Cup. Ramsey’s innovation gave them the upper hand as the opposition was left in wonder of how to defend such a unique strategy.
Capello is by all accounts as traditional as they come. His attitude toward his players and the way they play the game is border line archaic.
He requires a disciplined and finite execution to the game—a standard amongst the Italian tradition.
Unfortunately for Capello, sports are like an out of control bulldozer with no brakes—it runs on a path of its own and will destroy anything that tires to stop its progress. The best thing you can do is chase it down and hope to control it for as long as you can.
Capello was not chasing it down. On the contrary, he was standing right in front of it.
If you look at the path of the bulldozer you will see the flattened likes of Steve McClaren, Howard Wilkinson and Graham Taylor.
The FA has tried to emulate the success of revolutionary tactics by hiring managers who rely on tradition.
It is a counter intuitive approach to the international game and will always result in unmet expectations.
What the FA needs to do is take this chance they have to make something happen. It is very rare that a federation like England will go into a tournament where the fans hopes have been dashed by no fault of the federations.
Capello resigning gave the FA a free pass—a chance to hire a manager that can come in with the pressure subdued, knowing that any positive result he has at Euros in five months will be hailed and warmly received.
England has always had the players to compete at the highest level. Nearly all make their living in the best and one of the most forward thinking leagues in the world, the EPL. Their managers on their club teams preach styles of the game that revolutionize the approach to the sport.
When the likes of Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Ashley Young head off to represent their country, all that knowledge becomes useless. The simpleton tactics of decades before is regurgitated for them to swallow.
Harry Redknapp has been all but officially pegged as the leading man for the job. He has earned the label of a “player’s coach”, a welcomed achievement as opposed to the hardliners who have controlled this generation the past decade.
But what he most represents is a sense of hope and optimism for the fans, the FA and most importantly the players.
There is an interesting phenomenon that happens in sports. Sometimes when a team is underperforming and a reason cannot really be attributed to something, it could just be complacency that has gotten a hold of the team.
How many times has it happened, that a coach is fired, a player is traded or an event happens that just shakes some life into a team? Nothing happens that can be tangibly discerned, but it makes all the difference in results.
This could be the Redknapp effect.
Not only for this summer, but the future as well.