A New England- a Look at Capello's Potential Successors
England's lacklustre performance in their latest Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland was just the latest in a long line of embarrassments for the national team. Though England managed to come back from 2-0 down to salvage a point, this failed to cover up the sides obvious flaws. With the sides poor world cup performance still fresh in the memory, culminating in a 4-1 humbling against Germany, and failure to even qualify for the last European championships, change is clearly needed.
In the first part of a series looking at the future of the England national team, the potential successors to Fabio Capello are considered. The FA have already confirmed that Capello will depart after the 2012 European Championships, and that his successor will most likely be English, so this will be taken into consideration.
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The favourite to succeed Capello, and seemingly the most obvious choice. Redknapp has a wealth of experience, having started his managerial career in 1983. At the age of 64, this is realistically his last shot at the national team job.
Redknapp's most impressive achievements have occurred in the last few years, and have cast him into the spotlight when Capello's replacement is considered. He won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, the club's first major trophy in 58 years.
He then moved on to Tottenham, and within two years, the club had gone from bottom of the league to Champions League qualification, reaching the League Cup final along the way. Redknapp then led Spurs to the quarter finals of the Champions League before suffering a thumping by Real Madrid.
With a reputation as an excellent motivator, he turned Gareth Bale from a struggling left back into one of the most coveted players in all of Europe, Heurelho Gomes from a blundering clown into a well respected goalkeeper, and snapped up talented players rejected by bigger clubs, the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart and William Gallas, putting their careers back on track.
This ability for man management is particularly useful in the international game, when managers are forced to select from a specific pool of players, without the transfer market which club managers can turn to.
One criticism of Redknapp is his favouritism, a feeling that he has a certain group of players which he always plays, regardless of form—his constant selection of Peter Crouch, despite his lack of goals, and his current pursuit of Joe Cole are examples of this. With the England team needing a radical overhaul, perhaps a conservative manager such as Redknapp may not in fact be the best choice. Indeed, the England team has suffered for a number of years from having too many 'Untouchables'.
Redknapp is also sometimes accused of a lack of tactical knowledge. Van Der Vaart said of Redknapp 'There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a board in our dressing room but Harry doesn't write anything on it.'' This was meant as praise of Redknapp, and has clearly worked for Van Der Vaart. However, this tactical simplicity may be found out at international level, and some may say Spurs thrashing by Madrid was as a result of the limitations of Redknapp's tactics.
Regardless of these criticisms, Redknapp is still a strong contender for the job. Having spent so many years building up his experience and knowledge of the game, it may now be the time to give Redknapp a shot at the job he so clearly craves—if anyone can get these players performing to their best, it's Redknapp.
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Just a year ago, Hodgson was considered a strong contender for the England job, perhaps even level with Redknapp in the race.
Hodgson had just led Fulham to the Europa League final, defeating the likes of Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg along the way. Fulham were defeated in the final, heartbreakingly in extra time, but Hodgson was still crowned manager of the year. Following the sacking of Rafa Benitez from Liverpool, Hodgson was handed the job at Anfield—surely if he could succeed with a club the size of Liverpool, he would prove himself capable of managing England.
Yet things went horribly wrong for Hodgson at Anfield. He was sacked by January, with the side struggling at 12th in the league. Hodgson's reputation, carefully built up over many years in the game, had been shattered in just a few months on Merseyside.
Hodgson then took the job at West Brom, dragging them away from the relegation zone and into mid-table and restoring some personal dignity after the Liverpool fiasco.
Like Redknapp, Hodgson was a wealth of experience in the game, having started his coaching career back in 1971. He has managed clubs in England, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. He also has experience in international management, having taken charge of Finland, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland, who he led to the last 16 of the World Cup in 1994.
In a sharp contrast to Redknapp, Hodgson is seemingly obsessed with the tactics and shape of his team, with training reportedly concerned almost entirely with the sides shape on the pitch. Though this has proven effective with smaller sides such as West Brom and Fulham, with players of lesser ability, the failures of his tactical system were laid bare at Liverpool. This suggests that his tactics are too limited to succeed at international level.
If Hodgson can continue to rebuild his reputation at West Brom, he could challenge Redknapp for the job. Had he remained at Fulham, maybe he would still be neck and neck with Redknapp—it is difficult to tell. Though Redknapp and Hodgson may seem similar options, their tactical approach to the game is markedly different.
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Pearce possesses nowhere near the levels of experience which both Hodgson and Redknapp have. Pearce's club management career amounts to a spell as caretaker player-manager whilst at Nottingham Forest, and a two year spell at Manchester City where, despite a bright start, he is generally considered to have failed.
The reason why Pearce is even being considered for the job is his time in charge of the England Under 21 side. He led the team to the semifinals of the European Championship in 2007 only to be beaten on penalties, and then went a step further next time round, reaching the final. They were beaten 4-0 by Germany, though to be fair to Pearce and England, the Germany team contained the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, who both starred in the senior Germany sides demolition of England just a year later.
This success alone does not make Pearce seem an outstanding candidate—U21 football is very different to the senior game. But what Pearce has in his favour is that he has worked with the U21 team for four years now, managing a number of talented players. These are the players who will form the future of the England national team, and who better to integrate them into the senior squad than Pearce himself, who already knows their strengths and weaknesses.
Pearce is just 49, whilst Redknapp and Hodgson are both in their 60s. This could work either way for Pearce. On the one hand, he could he viewed as more of a 'Long term' appointment, who could manage the side for years. On the other, it could be said that Pearce will have other chances to manage the team later in his career, after he has gained more experience and perhaps managed another club side, but Redknapp and Hodgson won't.
There is also the fact that Pearce has worked with Capello whilst managing the U21's, and this may lead to negative associations with him—similar to when Steve McClaren was appointed after he had worked as Sven Goran-Erikkson's assistant.
Pearce would be a huge gamble by the FA, and seems an unlikely appointment. Given the sides recent failures, they will want to get this one right. However, McClaren and Capello were both seen as 'safe' choices, and neither of their reigns have been particularly successful. Pearce may not be the obvious choice, but he would certainly be an interesting one.
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Obviously not an Englishman, O'Neill is still a possible candidate. He has been linked with the job in the past, and now could be the right time for him to finally take it.
O'Neill won two league cups with Leicester before moving to Celtic, winning three SPL titles as well as reaching the UEFA cup final before a narrow extra time defeat to a Porto side managed by Jose Mourinho.
He took a one-year break from the game before returning to English football with Aston Villa. His side finished sixth for three successive seasons, between 2008 and 2010, but O'Neill became frustrated by his sides failure to break into the top four, and resigned after the sale of James Milner to Manchester City.
Though this does seem an impressive list of achievements, it is questionable whether O'Neill is a good enough manager to make the step up to England. O'Neill is often accused of being one dimensional, inflexible and lacking a plan B—this showed at times with Villa when things went wrong for his side.
Given that O'Neill has been out of the game for a year, it would seem extremely unfair, and unwise, to hand him the England managers job. He is strongly rumoured to be the man to fill the vacant position at Fulham—if he does take the job, and performs exceptionally well, then perhaps he may become a more serious contender for the job. At the moment, however, he seems something of an outside shot, and not a particularly attractive choice for the FA.
The Long Shots
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Sam Allardyce was a serious contender for the job in 2006, following the departure of Erikkson, due to his impressive work at Bolton, who he took into the UEFA Cup. After failing to land the England job, he spent another year at Bolton before leaving for Newcastle. He lasted less than a season at St. James Park, sacked by new owner Mike Ashley.
He eventually resurfaced at Blackburn, keeping the club in the Premier League in 2008/09, and stabilising the side in 2009/2010. He was once again sacked though, by clubs new owners, mid-way through 2010/2011, to be replaced by Steve Keen.
Allardyce has now been appointed by recently relegated West Ham, and so given he will be managing in the Championship next year, his odds of getting the job are extremely slim. His negative style of football and his lack of experience with top quality teams is another issue.
Steve Bruce- Another outsider, Bruce is really nothing more than an average Premier League manager. He seems to have quite a talent for leading teams to lower mid-table finishes (bar his relegation season with Birmingham), but has done little to suggest he is good enough to manage England.
Even at Sunderland he has struggled to progress, despite the backing of Niall Quinn and the board. Bruce doesn't seem a particularly exciting appointment for the national side.