As Wales bask in the glory of deservedly beating a below-par Belgium and begin to prepare for their semi-final date with Portugal on Wednesday, it feels like much longer than last Monday since England’s embarrassment at the hands of Euro 2016 minnows Iceland unfolded.
Since then, Roy Hodgson has resigned and then participated in a bizarre press conference he clearly did not want to attend, early favourite Gareth Southgate has ruled himself out of the running for the vacancy, and Alan Shearer has exploded with rage on multiple occasions, emitting almost as much disgust as when talking about Newcastle United on Match of the Day.
There are more questions than answers at this stage following the dismal campaign, although the FA have made it known that they want a new manager in place before England play Slovakia at Wembley at the start of September.
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The most obvious decision that needs making is appointing the next manager. If the FA wants to stick to the strategy of hiring an English manager, the options are certainly limited.
Sam Allardyce would probably want it, but hardly comes in as an exciting appointment to mark a new era, whilst Eddie Howe has an attractive style but lacks the experience needed at this moment. Gary Neville is sufficient proof to show that any coach needs more experience before taking on a big job, which incidentally rules him out too, aside from the fact that he was a key part of the previous regime. Glenn Hoddle has also been mentioned, but going back for a second attempt with one team is always considered a risk, as much as he would probably want to take it.
A foreign coach seems likely, even if Fabio Capello was hardly a success the last time England went down that route. Whoever is chosen, it needs to be right; the World Cup qualifying is much more difficult than for the European Championships and England have by no means a divine right to make it to Russia.
The major candidates include Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic, Jurgen Klinsmann, Laurent Blanc and Manuel Pellegrini. Each has obstacles: Wenger would not leave Arsenal for at least another season, so an interim would be required in the meantime which is far from ideal, and Bilic would surely not consider leaving West Ham as they move into the Olympic Stadium off the back of an excellent season. As for the others, whether they would want the job is the main question – England is perhaps not the most attractive proposition for people of this calibre at this stage.
England require a manager with a clear, defined style of play; someone who is modern, adaptable, tactically astute and attacking by nature, the complete opposite of Hodgson.
When teams like Spain are mentioned, a clear style of passing and moving immediately springs to mind. With Italy, there is defensive solidity merged with attacking flair, and whilst Portugal rely heavily on Ronaldo, they at least recognise and accept this and build around him, making effective use of all the other players in the process.
In contrast, England currently have no clear style or philosophy, no formation to stick to and work around, and lack cohesion, being undone by a throw in against Iceland and running out of creative ideas going the other way soon after.
Poor decisions were made by the management staff: Harry Kane taking corners, Adam Lallana being dropped to make room for an underperforming Raheem Sterling, an unfit Wilshere relied upon when coming from behind in matches, and Sturridge marooned out wide where he is far less effective.
The quality is there: no one can say Iceland or Wales have better players than England, yet they both have gone further in the tournament playing as a team with a definitive plan. A better manager would change this.
The most credible and realistic person for the FA to turn to is Manuel Pellegrini. He has made it clear that he wants to continue working in England, although admittedly he probably meant in the Premier League rather than the national team coach.
He has experience in knockout competitions, having reached the Champions League quarter-finals-finals with Malaga, the semi-finals with Manchester City, as well as winning the Capital One Cup twice, and has a clear idea of how he wants his teams to play.
He is less defensively-minded than Hodgson, is well-liked in the public and the press, and is the kind of agreeable character that suits the FA too – he is not one to cause a fuss, which is exactly why Hodgson was appointed in the first place.
Pellegrini has won trophies, is already familiar with the Manchester City contingent, and would represent a massive upgrade on the previous coach. He may not be ideal because he is not English, but has worked in England for three years and represents less of a gamble than other foreign coaches as a result. His English is good and his managing ability better than the current English alternatives.
Some players need to move on too. Whether Wayne Rooney, for example, is still part of the first eleven by the time the World Cup in 2018 comes around is seriously debatable.
In goal, Joe Hart let in incredibly soft goals, not least his weak effort at preventing Gareth Bale’s free-kick against Wales in Lens. Jack Butland and Fraser Forster will surely put more pressure on him in the coming months.
Likewise, Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling will both come under more pressure from John Stones, and the emergence of Marcus Rashford gives more options in forward areas. Pellegrini, despite his calm persona and seemingly distant expression at times, would be ruthless, not having to worry about reputations of star players and egos, having experienced players like Yaya Toure in his last job.
The position of England manager does not need to be filled by someone who is an English national, but requires the best-suited person for the job, with the greatest chance of success.
If Pellegrini offers more than someone like Sam Allardyce – and his track record suggests he does – then why shouldn’t he get the job? England fans crave ambition, and this is the perfect opportunity for the FA to show that they can offer some hope, even after FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn, and one of three men who will choose the next boss, admitted he was “no football expert”.
It is about time that the England football team gave fans something to get excited about, and this is a huge opportunity to do so.
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