For the second time in a week England exited Europe with its tail between its legs, and once again the man in power fell on his sword in a dramatic resignation.
In truth, Roy Hodgson’s departure was more predictable than David Cameron’s given that his contract was up at the end of Euro 2016 anyway, and realistically there would have been no way back for the man who has overseen such a shambolic tournament from the Three Lions.
An inability to hold out for the win against Russia, or break down Slovakia after making six changes to the starting eleven, cost England the chance to top their group (and thus take their place on the ‘easier’ side of the draw), but even that proved academic as Hodgson’s men succumbed to Iceland – with a population the size of Birmingham – by a scoreline of 2-1.
So where did it all go wrong for Hodgson? Well, his inability to cajole winning performances from a bunch of in-form players is a huge flaw, as is his seeming delight in trying to fit round pegs into square holes; Wayne Rooney is not an international standard midfielder, and Daniel Sturridge is not a right winger. His muddled thinking continued against Iceland: he stated in his pre-match interview that he wanted to stretch the compact Scandinavians, and yet fielded a right-footed player on the left and a left-footer on the right, meaning that they had to cut inside and run into traffic. Once again, Hodgson’s tactical ineptitude was exposed on the grandest stage.
And herein lies the problem: it is all well and good beating the likes of Lithuania and Moldova in front of 60,000 people at Wembley during qualifying, but you have to be able to replicate those performances in a neutral venue when the pressure is on too. Hodgson’s England could not, and their former manager paid the ultimate price.
Whoever fills his shoes has a mighty tough task on their hands shaping this England unit into something that can challenge at the highest level.
The Brit Pack
The market has been opened already in the hunt for Hodgson’s successor, and even the most optimistic patriot would have to admit it makes for rather grim viewing.
The early favourite is Gareth Southgate, who has done an admirable job with the Under 21s in winning the Toulon tournament. But he lacks any real managerial experience at senior level; bar a stint at Middlesbrough in which he got them relegated.
Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce are also in the mix according to the bookmakers, but neither fits the FA remit of a ‘yes man’ in the mould of Hodgson or Steve McClaren. Both are seemingly independent thinkers with their own views on how the game should be played; not particularly welcomed by the administrators currently in charge of the English game, thank you very much.
A case can be made for Eddie Howe, an impressive, progressive young coach, but realistically he would need to manage a bigger club before his credentials can be analysed further. The next five in the betting can all be dismissed without much thought: Harry Redknapp prefers the easy money these days, Gary Neville was part of the doomed Hodgson regime and has the embarrassment of that ill-fated Valencia tenure on his CV, Brendan Rodgers has just taken the Celtic job, Alan Shearer has no relevant experience and Glen Hoddle hasn’t worked in football in a decade. It makes for pretty grim reading.
The New Way
If ‘Brexit’ has taught us anything, it is that at our core the British public is a xenophobic old bunch. As such, recommending a foreign coach of the national side will go down as well as a bout of flatulence in a broken elevator, but the case for just that is overwhelming.
International football is unique, and a far different challenge to that posed by club management. Any recruitment agency involved in headhunting the next England manager will surely be looking for some kind of international experience on the successful candidate’s resume – which discounts all possible English candidates bar Southgate and McClaren.
The Three Lions were shown up at Euro 2016 in the same way as they are at most major tournaments; as a side, not lacking in ability or temperament, but one that is poorly-organised and playing without a coherent identity. A fallibility to playing under pressure is another major concern.
There is little that can be done about that latter caveat, but organisation, identity and strategy can all be implemented by a smart coach in touch with the modern game. Age is irrelevant – but an appreciation of the changing nature of contemporary football is imperative.
Surely then the best candidate for the job is, whisper it, a German: Jurgen Klinsmann. He led a youthful Germany to third place at the World Cup of ’06 – paving the way for their golden generation to shine, took the USA to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2014 (something England failed to do), and more recently oversaw their progress to the semi-finals of the Copa America on home soil.
The international pedigree is there, as is another crucial factor that may help him ‘get over’ with the British public: his appreciation of English football. You may remember his stint as a player at Spurs, and the fact that he is fluent in the language should help a ‘cautious’ British public who are often unnerved by anybody who speaks in a slightly different manner to them.
A 25/1 chance? If the FA had any sense they’d be getting involved too.