Fabio Capello’s decision to quit his position as England Manager last week may have come quite out of the blue, but it hasn’t taken long for the public to forget about the man with the face that constantly resembled that of a confused bulldog after it had lost its owner. Harry Redknapp was immediately linked with the job due to Tottenham’s excellent performances in the Premier League so far but has so far remained tight-lipped about whether he would accept the position were it offered to him. It is by no means certain that he would, given how Spurs have a more or less guaranteed Champions League spot already and could yet be influential in the title run-in later in the year. Also, I do fear that Harry would become mighty bored at his inability to buy players were he to take the England reins – especially come the 31st of January and Deadline Day. I can almost see it now, Redknapp sitting at home in front of the TV watching the drama unfold on Sky Sports News. It gets to 9pm. His palms start to sweat. His face begins to twitch uncontrollably (even more so than usual). His arm reaches for the phone. ‘Must…buy…someone…must…spend…money…somehow…’
Anyway, whoever the new England manager may turn out to be, he needs to breathe life into a nation that has become more and more apathetic towards its national football team within the last few years. A poor showing at South Africa 2010, not even qualifying for Euro 2008, England has become a bit of a laughing stock in many respects within the International footballing community because, while we continue to talk the talk, the walk has been conspicuous by its absence.
Now I don’t care what nationality the next manager of England is. I personally don’t believe that having a national coach from the same nation as his players plays that much of a role, simply because he doesn’t spend enough time with them anyway. At the end of the day it’s a job, and whoever has the best credentials should get the job. What I do want, though, is a youthful fresh start.
The England team of recent years has failed to excite the public on many occasions. Even though talented players such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney shone each week in the self-dubbed ‘best league in the world’, when they came together the result was just disappointment. A stroll through an unchallenging qualification group (bar the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign) followed by a swift exit at the tournament proper once they came up against any nation of pedigree or dynamism. If the Quarter Final were the new Final we’d be Champions for sure. But it’s not, and we’re not.
While I still partake in a bit of national patriotism each time an England game is broadcast, I can’t help but cast an enviable glance over at countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, enjoying such wonderful form and playing such superb football. Each country has its own style of football and its own justifications for enjoying the limelight now.
Spain were international football’s nearly men. Always so close, yet so far. A nation brimming with talent just couldn’t find that final pinch of salt needed to transform their footballing paella from above average into world-beater. And then it just all seemed to click. First Euro 2008, then the World Cup. You ever heard that joke about buses? Now Spanish teams dominate every age category with their brand of short, quick passing coupled with intelligent off-the-ball movement, and the country’s loving every minute of it.
The Netherlands have always enjoyed a status amongst the top footballing nations ever since the Total Football era. They have yet to experience their Spain moment, as they are still without a World Cup win to their name, but it will come.
And then there’s Germany. The very definition of consistency. German teams have competed for the very top honours of football seemingly since the dawn of time. While they didn’t reach the Final in South Africa, the way they destroyed England and then Argentina in the following round beggared belief. I found myself mentally applauding the German goals during their 4-1 victory over England simply because the football on display was so pleasing to watch, so easy on the eye. Many felt outraged at Lampard’s ‘goal that should have been’, I just felt oddly mesmerized.
Germany’s success has its foundations in youth. Joachim Löw has done a superb job during his time in charge by promoting the best youngsters together. Had anyone in this country, apart from avid Bundesliga fans, heard of Thomas Müller, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng and Mesut Özil before the 2010 World Cup? At the time, these players only had 27 caps between them. If we averaged it out it would be just over 5 caps each. All started the Second Round match against England. All, bar Müller, had been part of the victorious German side in the U21 European Championship only 1 year before. The only England starter promoted from the England team that reached the final of the same competition was James Milner. The average age of Germany’s World Cup squad was 24 years old, England’s – amongst the oldest in the competition – was a full 4 years older.
Joachim Löw does something that no England manager ever seems to do. He appreciates the value of his nation’s youth teams, and the importance of building foundations. Germany take youth competitions seriously, unlike England, where most Premier League teams block our best youngsters from competing in international youth tournaments for fear of losing them to injury or fatigue. Until the FA makes it mandatory for clubs to release any young player called up by any England manager at any level, we may never stand a chance.
It is not all doom and gloom, however. England never fails to produce young, talented players. Our only downfall is making them gel into a side that can compete amongst the best. That’s why I believe it imperative that the new England manager bring in wholesale changes when he takes charge. Let’s face it, we’re hardly going to set the European Championships alive this year are we? Better to give new players a chance to play together and learn from each other than give the same old squad yet another opportunity to disappoint us all.
If I were England manager I would clear out the current squad and start anew. Of the current starters I’d only keep Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart (for obvious reasons), Darren Bent, Scott Parker and possibly Rio Ferdinand. The rest of the squad would be made up of mostly young and/or inexperienced players, with a few more experienced players to help guide them along. I’ve also included a few players who, while they might not appear to be of ‘international quality’, are enjoying good form and so deserve at least a shot in my opinion.
I’m not saying this squad would dominate all before it. We’d probably suffer a few losses at the beginning, but I believe the end would justify the means as these players would grow and mature alongside their contemporaries. They would not be weighed down by past failures at tournaments and would possess that ‘no-fear’ attitude and that hunger so prevalent in young players.
Joe Hart, John Ruddy, David Stockdale.
Micah Richards, Kyle Walker, Kieran Gibbs, Leighton Baines.
Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Steven Caulker, Michael Dawson, Joleon Lescott.
Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Scott Parker, Jack Rodwell, Henri Lansbury.
Ashley Young, Adam Johnson, Aaron Lennon, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marc Albrighton, Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer.
Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Darren Bent, Danny Graham.
*Note: I’m aware that this squad is larger than the 23-man squad permitted at international competitions, it’s just to give you an idea of the players I’d choose.