New captain, new manager - same old England problem


All this talk about England has got me thinking - isn't there one issue as a country we all seem to have forgotten?

With no captain, and no manager, our already slim hopes of success at this summer's European championships in Poland and Ukraine must now have been emphatically dismissed. Not so, it would appear.

A strange feeling of renewed belief seems to have descended upon our once great nation, despite the fact we still can't take penalties, and are nowhere near the likes of Spain or Germany in terms of class. So, why the whiff of optimism?

The Football Association confirmed in today's lunchtime press conference that U21 boss Stuart Pearce will take the reigns for England's friendly with Holland this month, and the board of directors will begin their search for Fabio Capello's successor in earnest.

Regardless of whether the next installment is made prior to Euro 2012, I don't think we have a cat in hell's chance of winning the competition - recent history would suggest there would be street parties up and down the country if we make it as far as the semi-finals.

What's missing here is not the inspirational skipper that England longs for, nor the homegrown tactician to restore a nation's dented pride - it comes down to the age-old debate of the growing need for a winter break.

For too long now, the Premier League's desire to feed lucrative television markets around the world has been to the detriment of the national set-up, with the busy fixture schedule taking its toll on our players while other major leagues sensibly pause for breath.

Sven Goran Eriksson was the first England manager to put real pressure on the FA to push for a winter break, while Capello was also keen on the idea of a mid-season rest for the players.

Club bosses are known to be behind the idea - Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are the most high-profile Premier League managers to back Erikson's philosophy, while further support from a number of players has given the case more reason for debate.

It's a common suggestion that as a nation we are our own worst enemy, and the masters of our own downfall when it comes to international football. The weight of public and press expectation hangs too heavily on our England players, inhibiting them at major tournaments.

The banishment of the seven-sub rule in the Football League, introduced at the start of the 2011-12 campaign, has also further restricted the ability for smaller clubs in the holy grail of professional football to nurture the country's brightest up and coming youngsters.

As pressure builds on recently appointed FA chairman David Bernstein to make haste with any boardroom deliberations and quickly appoint the nation's first-choice Harry Redknapp - a country's hopes rest collectively on the shoulders of a man who 24 hours ago was facing a personal battle of his own.

Cleared of any unlawful wrongdoing, the angst towards the Tottenham boss swiftly turned to the celebration of one of the country's finest managers in the modern game.

A fine coach, inspiring motivator and organiser; Redknapp's association with the so-called 'Golden Generation' of players - the Frank Lampard's, Rio Ferdinand's and Joe Cole's of yesteryear - could prove to be the first real test of his England credentials – as he will need to find a balance of introducing a new wave of talented youngsters. Then there is the issue of the armband.

Whatever the outcome of the endless decisions, that ultimately lie ahead, the winter break issue cannot be ignored for much longer. Otherwise, our already stagnant nation will be at risk of even further decline.

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