FOOTBALL: FRANCESCA TYE sorts out the England team. If the FA read The Tab…
Does the manager really matter?
The English national team has been privileged to experience some of the most successful managers over the past decade, Capello and Eriksson having made significant achievements at club level.
Too tough a job for one man?
Yet none of them experienced any real success with our national team – that is, when you judge success by the standards set by the English media. But how much can one man fix? Perhaps he can solve some temporary problems, but all the speculation over will it or won’t it be Harry dangerously hides the deeper problems in the national game, problems that a simple change at the top cannot fix.
English football, that is the typical football played by all, on Sunday league matches, is characterized by games where the result is everything; it is substance over style; no matter how you win as long as you do.
Mostly you will find young children playing on pretty much full-sized pitches, with full-sized goals, and little attention paid to whether this is actually conducive to helping them pass the ball well. This is backed up by parents or crowds who greet a good hard tackle with more admiration than a nice pass, and offer advice ranging from “get rid of it”, “hit it long” or “do something with it”. Does this encourage creative football with attention to the way in which the so called “beautiful game” is played? No. This can never be a good basis on which to build a national football team.
Even Harry can’t do it on his own…
Not only are there problems at the grassroots level but also in the Premiership. Our league has the most exhaustive fixture list which favours large television companies over players themselves. Thus, it is no surprise when summer tournaments come around that many Premiership players suffer from injuries or fail to deliver because of the sheer weight of fixtures.
It’s a fixture list that also lacks a winter break, unlike the German and Spanish leagues. The problems don’t stop at the relentless number of games – how many times have we heard Ferguson declare a player unfit for England (groin strain is a favourite) only to be playing again for club the following week? Unless clubs are willing to support the national team and more care is taken over player’s fitness rather than television money, things won’t be changing.
There are further issues within football media coverage. Nobody remembers that we have won nothing since 1966. Whichever tournament we enter (if we manage that), the team is greeted with incredibly high expectations that they are almost certain to betray.
Thus, the England manager’s job is never going to be viable until there are fundamental changes into the way English football operates at all levels.
There are plentiful examples from other countries; look at what Speed managed at Wales and Klinsmann with Germany. Although they have a few excellent players, the majority of these teams was made up with younger, so-called “inferior” players. Yet by playing simple, passing football and having sensible media coverage that encouraged support of the national team rather than looking for the next revelation or upset, both teams have experienced considerable success.
So no matter how good Harry is, it is the problems within the English game that need fixing and until we become realistic about just how serious these problems are, the speculation over the manager’s job remains a convenient distraction from unwanted attention on the real state of our game.