Sam Allardyce lasted a single game in charge of England. With Gareth Southgate, the current caretaker coach, having been solid yet unspectacular in his opening fixtures, where and to whom should the F.A. turn?
For the short term, he is the perfect choice: a decent spell in charge of Middlesborough in the Premier League was followed by overseeing the England U21’s, and he will know the inner workings of the Football Association and England better than perhaps any manager.
It would require a great deal of faith to choose him on this alone; he opted out of applying for the role before Allardyce was appointed, and his England U21 team finished bottom of their group in last year’s European Championship.
Nevertheless, his knowledge of the game at youth and academy level, and the possibility of having an England coach with the desire and foresight to implement a systemic way of playing- from grassroots to Wembley- makes him an appealing prospect. This would require the luxury of time to bear fruit.
Southgate’s greatest limitation is his lack of recent management in the pressurised Premier League. Despite the very different demands of club and international management, the lack of forgiveness for underachievement is even stronger for an England manager.
Howe has done a fantastic job at Bournemouth, albeit with a well-funded squad, cultivating positive football from the Championship to the Premier League when the temptation would be to play safe. With even less experience than Southgate, it would a feel a little like selecting the flavour of the month. It is surely too soon.
The man is something of an enigma. His career often feels contradictory, going from a figure of utter derision at Newcastle, to a returning cult hero at Crystal Palace; his teams flit between runs of defeats, followed by periods of overachievement. Palace are a strong side, able to switch between centre-forward oriented direct football, and fast paced attacking that overruns opposition defences. This would fit England well, but he does seem too much of a loose cannon for the typically conservative F.A. to choose.
His Burnley side play with the same grit that can be found in his voice, and now with the extra quality from Steven Defour look a formidable outfit. They have a siege mentality and play compact football that seems tactically closer to Allardyce’s teams than anyone else. Having successfully managed Joey Barton last season, he is well placed to address the problem of dealing with personalities and well as footballers.
Any other contenders?
The kind of populism that would render Harry Redknapp, Alan Shearer- or perhaps less ridiculously, Glenn Hoddle- as serious candidates should be dismissed. Redknapp has only been successful through profligate transfer activity, Shearer’s unsuccessful spell at Newcastle is insufficient, and he- along with Hoddle, who lacks contemporary experience- should look to Gary Neville to see how difficult the transition from punditry to management is.
A Foreign Manager?
If the F.A. wants to look abroad, perhaps the best foreign option is already in England. Arsène Wenger has all the attributes to successfully implement the positive football Howe plays with Bournemouth, and a history of bringing through youth that would help the progression from the academies to the elite game. The clear negative is Arsenal’s repeated failure in cup competitions, the barometer for international management.
He seems better suited to a role where he can oversee the systemic improvement of English football, perhaps in conjunction with someone like Howe or Southgate as manager, rather than deal with the pressures that afflict England coaches every tournament.
What of José Mourinho, once his (probable three year) tenure at Manchester United ends? As a specialist in winning tournaments with defensively minded teams, were he to bring a World Cup or European Championship to England, it would be hard to argue with his failure to promote talented youth team players. The job would seem a logical conclusion to his career.