Monday, December 10, 2007

English Football, English Dreams

While the All Blacks and USA Eagles have been going through a process to find a new national coach for their premier rugby sides, England has been thrown into deep despair by their inability to qualify for the European Football Championships in 2008. This will probably cost the English economy around £2 billion and has really shattered the nation. The so-called 'Golden Generation' of players have been over-hyped and have under performed for 3 years now, but this is the final embarrassment. Failing to qualify against Croatia, Israel and Russia is pathetic for these high priced prima donnas. To top it off, Steve McClaren was fired and walked away with a payout of £2.5 million.

I find this appalling. The whole FA should resign on the spot. Putting this nincompoop in charge was never going to work. He was a classic #2 and Blind Freddy could see that he didn’t have the leadership, imagination or inspirational qualities for the #1 job. At best he was a solid #2, but leading England in soccer is as important to that nation as the All Blacks coaching job is to New Zealand. I was never a fan of McClaren’s predecessor, Sven-Göran Eriksson at an international level as I believe he did not understand English players and how to get the best from them. He has been a tremendous success with my club, Manchester City (much to my amazement) because he has put together an impeccable defence, some great ball players and a very sound strategy. That said, he only has four English players on the side, so he’s done it with Continentals and South Americans whose mentality he understands.

The Premier League and English players are a different breed. They are generally working class boys who have focused on football for most of their lives and not much else. What they do have is national pride and patriotism; what they don’t have is the ability to innovate and to strategize. They need a coach who can communicate a simple game plan based on stamina, running, determination and grit, someone who can inspire the players to commit themselves totally to the cause.

The job also needs someone with a sense of humor and a sense of theatre to keep the cynical English media on board - or at least on the hop.

Now the papers are all about another foreign saviour: Luiz Felipe Scolari (the Brazilian), Rafa Benitez (a Spaniard), Jose Mourinho (a Portuguese), Marcello Lippi (an Italian), Fabio Capello, (another Italian), Juergen Klinsmann (a German) and Martin O’Neill (an Irishman) are all in the frame. But what the FA should do is give the job to Harry Redknapp. He is a straight talking, optimistic English football man with passion and joy in everything he does. He understands English players and knows how to get the most out of limited resources. He knows football is a very simple game made unnecessarily complicated by too much analysis and over thinking (a bit like business really). Players would play for him, the media would never be short of a story and we’d have an English football man in charge at last.