Roy Hodgson will be the new England manager. This is the wrong position for him.

                                                                        Source: Graeme Bandeira 

After much deliberation and media frenzy, the position of England national team manager, the “biggest” job in world football, has been handed to…Roy Hodgson. Underwhelmed?!

Since the day Capello left the job there has been an obsession in the media about who should replace Fabio. The overwhelming favourite in those days following was Harry Redknapp. It seemed like the coronation was ready; fans, players and the media appeared to be backing him for the job without any hint of considering other candidates and his current employers feelings of the situation. He clearly felt that the job was his, it was just a matter of time.

In the ongoing weeks and now months since Capello left the issue of the national job has been constantly in the media; with Alan Pardew impressing at Newcastle there was talk that perhaps he could be the man to lead his country. Amazing really when 18 months ago he was a sacked League 1 manager and when appointed manager of the Toon, was roundly greeted by jeers. How time can change one’s fortunes and so too how ridding your side of English players and replacing them with better foreigners can work a treat for your standing as the potential England manager. How funny football is.

Recently there has been talk of Pep Guardiola, seemingly only lying about his need of a rest if you believe the media who believe he wants to leave Barca to lead a country he has had no ties with except for a remark about wanting to coach in England in the future.  Of course he has found the job in Barcelona stressful, the constant media attention and pressures took their toll. Well, if he thought that was tough, what with the best team in the world, while being successful, then the England job, with all the unrealistic expectation, continual failings and a sinister media who await failure, then anyone with a history of stress should not consider the role due to health factors.

So who else has been touted, well of course anyone with a successful resume fits the bill; Jose, Scolari, Wenger. Top names in management who the media believe will bring success to this great nation. A media who portrays the fact that the reason we don’t win anything is because of the manager. They thought Sven was the one, yet didn’t think he gesticulated enough, he just wasn’t motivating the players to get further than quarter finals. And then there was Capello, a glittering history of domestic and European success, if there was a man to make England a winning side then he was it. It was worth the £6 million a year wasn't it if he could succeed. What the team needed was this man, this leader of men, to take England back to the top. But wait, he couldn’t talk to the players, he couldn’t speak English. Blast England’s luck that this Italian had all this knowledge; all these tactics to win trophies, yet it was hidden inside of him because he couldn’t communicate, that was the problem.

It's the players, stupid. 

The truth is, like you didn’t know, is that it is not the manager that matters, this side have been blessed with great managers, however the problem has been that these great managers have not been blessed with great players. 

If we believe the media then our players are the best in the world, capable of beating anyone. However, we struggled to beat Slovenia and could only draw with a very impressive, compared to England, Algeria. A thrashing by Germany awoke many to the problems plaguing this countries issues in international football. For once real questions were being asked of this “golden generation” of which none have played in at most a semi-final for England. The issue goes much deeper than that squad though, it goes to the quality of youth development in England compared to other countries.

The problem we have had when bringing in Sven’s and Fabio’s is that they have a remit, win something! Of course this is every national team managers target, yet each target is relative to each country. For some it may be qualification, others lifting the trophy. And so a team’s final position is relative to their expectations which is then deemed successful or not. The problem with England is that where expectations should be to qualify and reach the quarter finals, the media hype up this average bunch as potential winners. No wonder every England manager is deemed a failure. The expectations are simply unrealistic. 

And now the really worry is that England have declined when others have improved. The difference in quality between the top sides in the world and England who lie 7th in the world rankings is vast and it will be very difficult to catch up. Can England compete with Spain, Germany or Holland, no. Like Chelsea against Barcelona last week, it may be that against these sides, the only way to be successful is to defend and close down spaces. If you try to play open against these sides, they will destroy you, as Germany showed in the World Cup. In a one off game like against Spain, perhaps you could knick a win if you play the way they did. In my opinion at that level, you play to win and use the best tactic that will enable success. If it means doing it “ugly” then so be it. Winning should take precedence over all else.

In my opinion the focus is not the senior side. The players there are what they are, some excellent talent mixed with average talent. Ageing players who need replacing with young unproven talent. United have players like Jones, Smalling, Cleverley and Welbeck who could develop into good players, yet need the experience. Others like Walker, Sturridge, Wilshere and Chamberlain all show potential too. These players need experience to develop and become better; they need to play more Champions League and International football to achieve that. Yet, are there enough players coming through? When you look at teams like Bilbao in Spain or Dortmund in Germany, these are sides developing home grown talent capable of reaching European finals and winning leagues. Where are our sides achieving this, with home grown talent too?

So how can we improve our national side? For me, the key is youth development. This is where the foundations are set, where players are developed. England’s problem is that we have sought to develop top down far too often. The money goes from the top and trickles down, leaving barely anything to really improve standards of grassroots coaching. This is the first step to developing players suited for the modern game. Right now the pool of talent is too small because too many players are being ruined, and I really mean that, by uneducated coaches who have no idea what they are doing, both technically and importantly socially to the players they work with. Between the ages of 7-11 a young player needs to build a solid foundation, this is not happening well enough. 

The new academy plans for next season, the Elite PlayerPerformance Plan (EPPP) seeks to improve the quality of coaching in academies, with better facilities for players to develop in. While I see potential downfalls to this model, I do see what they are trying to achieve. Yet a major problem for me in all this is that if talent id is not done well enough, if the scouting of players is based on a player’s physicality over anything else including intelligence and technical ability, then how can academies look to develop potential world class players. There is still too much credence given to size and power in scouting, assets which give a player advantages over their peers in the short term because they are bigger than their peers. If scouting continues to stay this way then many players, those with genuine talent yet who develop later due to birth date or late puberty, those could have been special, are left behind due to a short term, subjective view on achievement and success. You only have to look at Germany, Spain and Argentina to see how great small players can be. Why are we not learning from the best?

Why does the England manager matter?

What does this have to do with the England managers job I am sure you ask. Everything. Trevor Brooking is a very influential man at the FA and reports appear to be that he chose Hodgson for the job over Redknapp. He did this solely because of the importance he sees in the England manager in the development of the grassroots game. 

There were many issues regarding Capello in terms of his reluctance to lay down the foundations for the future of English players and development,  and this caused many at the FA to believe that Capello was not the man they wanted or needed. For them, the next man had to be a part of their development plan.

This is why Hodgson has got the job, he ticks what the FA want in their manager. They wanted an English man, which I for one believed we should have. The national team of England should not have to go abroad to bring in a manager worthy of representing them. The issue of why there aren’t enoughEnglish coaches in football management is as important an issue as to why there are so few world class English players. Could it be that we are now at stage where these issues are genuinely considered. I believe so, in my opinion ten years too late compared to what Germany have done and twenty years too late compared to Spain.

The unfortunate truth is that a philosophy of how to playwas put down in the 80’s, however it’s flaws have been evident in the English game since then. Direct football required direct players, meaning those small, technical players were deemed surplus to requirements. It is all a shame really, as the modern game shows how those “little” players are quite invaluable and that by not producing enough technical, creative players, England has lagged behind many countries and not just the big ones.

So the FA wanted a man in place who would be their man, who would speak their voice and who would usher in a new period for English football. They wanted a man who would use their new National Football Centre to educate coaches and players of and for the future. They believed that Roy Hodgson as England manager would be their answer. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Too much pressure restricts influence 

You see, the problem with the England manager’s role is that it is very much a poison chalice, in which the occupant of the role becomes scrutinised and ultimately vilified for his performance. History has been kind to men like Robson, Venables and Hoddle, yet their time as manager was slaughtered by the press and the fans. If the intention is to develop the future generation, then the manager of England is not the man for that job. 

Roy Hodgson has too many problems already before he has even been given the job. Most notably the press and their man Harry Redknapp. Because Redknapp was the media’s choice, and apparently some of the players too, then whoever was going to get it that wasn’t Redknapp was simply going to be slaughtered. I feel sorry for what lies ahead for Hodgson, I really do. The onslaught from the media on everything he does will be savage and menacing, his fashion, his speech, his tactics and his mannerisms will be questioned and mocked. For however long he stays in the job he will constantly be compared to Redknapp. The media will not stop till they get him out, they really are a brutal bunch.

The FA have brought this on themselves; has Hodgson got any chance of winning anything with England, probably  not. Does Redknapp. No. So why didn’t the FA just give Redknapp the job? It would have been the best solution to this mess. Why? Because by giving the media what they want, meant they could not argue. They would have struggled to criticise England and the manager because this was their choice. If he wins something,  then  they are vindicated. If he loses, then would they be forgiving or humble to admit it was a mistake? By giving him the job the FA would be seen favourably, the media would be happy and if it failed then the FA could say, we gave you what you wanted and it didn't work. By giving Hodgson the job it makes a martyr out of Redknapp and allows the media to ask what if. I am disappointed because I wanted Redknapp in the job in order for him to fail. What it would allow the FA to concentrate on also was matters more important.

Most important role - The Technical Director

The job of England manager should not be about the development of the national game, it shouldn't. It should be to manage the senior side while having a good relationship with the U21’s. The role which is the most important for the future of England, one which would lay the foundations for England to be competing in the coming decades, is the role of Technical Director. It is this position which Hodgson should be given the job, as it is this position which will matter more to the development of England.

Many names have been touted for this role, one being Gareth Southgate. I have no issues with his performance as a player, he was an excellent defender. Yet when I consider him to be the man to take this country forward, to lay the foundations, coach future coaches to develop world class players, then I feel a little worried. Where is his experience, how knowledgeable is he? 

Hodgson has a wealth of experience in different countries, with club sides and national sides. He speaks more than seven languages I believe, which is quite astounding and has a management career spanning 36 years.  The amount of knowledge and experience he has accumulated will be wasted on a group of over indulgent players who lack the intelligence to be successful.

The beauty of this role is that there is no media pressure, no constant attention and no judgements made on performances and results with the senior side. While Harry is managing the senior lot and more than probably failing, Hodgson could actually be working on the important issues needed to improve the standard of the national game without the glare or attention that the national manager brings.

I cannot fault Hodgson for his desire to manage his national side, yet would want to him question his reasons why. If he genuinely cared about the future of the national game, then he should refuse the manager’s job and take the role of Technical Director, thus taking the most important position for the future of England.

I fear that by him taking the manager’s position he will be taking a poison chalice in which those who have come before him now have a reputation based on failure, spending their time in the comfort of the media, instead of being a part of the development of the future of their country.