Hope, part 32

 

Something got lost in the transmission again. Or perhaps it didn’t. Either way, England drew in Warsaw, a well-rehearsed historical inevitability which had Marx chuckling from beneath the sodden turves of Highgate cemetery. The Socratic wonder of the British sporting press has pecked out their diagnosis with trembling fingers: England don’t pass well enough. England don’t control possession well enough. England don’t show enough PASSION. What Is To Be Done?

 

It doesn’t matter.

 

England do as well as they should; Soccernomics taught us that. They just do it absently and joylessly. They’re accused of having no character; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. They have several characters, each more frightened, venal and entitled than the last. They’re Don Birnam, self-aggrandising and deluded in their drunken post-victory state: denuded and self-loathing in sobriety and defeat. They’re Alexander Portnoy, driven by their baser instincts into acts which disgust in the cold light of day. They’re Svejk, without the knowing insolence.

 

There’s no poetry to England’s entropy. And it doesn’t matter, because nothing will ever change; or at least, not for a long time. A country which has made a bloody-minded point of refusing to learn from defeats and disappointments is only just recognising that its raw materials are dwindling, its approach is outmoded and its priorities are skewed. As the player pool becomes a brackish puddle, functional footballers are first-team regulars and middling prospects are cherished as the second coming of Charlton and Hoddle, England grimly cling on and hope that by the time they’ve caught up, the rest of the world isn’t playing a different game altogether.

 

Let’s just hit the big man early and see what happens.

England’s New Coach – the runners and riders, the early fallers and the extended metaphors

NearPostFlick steps out into the clearing and sighs. An unforgiving sun beats down as it looks into Pablo’s drunken pig eyes, and at the wine bowl. The wine bowl is nearly empty.

Keep off the wheel, NearPostFlick tells itself. Pablo’s drinking again. Sure. But don’t you get on that wheel now. Wasn’t Radostin Kishishev meant to be drunk during most of one of Charlton’s Premier League seasons? Certainly was. ‘We’re going to have to take a view on the England managerial position eventually, aren’t we, Pablo?’ NearPostFlick sighs.

‘Muy bien’ replies Pablo, as Maria refills the wine bowl.

The Front Runner

Harry Redknapp

You know he’s going to be offered it. Your nan knows he’s going to be offered it. Tibetan monks, gin-soaked Upper West Side lushes and long-dead Joy Division front man Ian Curtis know he’s going to be offered it. But most damagingly, he knows he’s going to be offered it. His recent, amusingly formally-translated interview with L’Equipe makes that clear enough. With his every ‘it is a tough job, I have a good situation here at Tottenham [sic]’, Redknapp is engaging in a coy dance of seduction and rejection with the FA – one which started the day he was acquitted of tax evasion and has continued ever since, dragging on long enough to make Romeo and Juliet look like a fumbled nightclub toilet quickie. He’s undeniably a good manager, though his mishandling of cut-glass egos like Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko somewhat give the lie to the legend that he’s an inspired leader of men, and you might question why he hadn’t been entrusted with a ‘big’ club before his construction of an admittedly intrepid Tottenham side. We’ll leave detailed tactical analysis to people who can make lopsided 4-2-2-2’s work for them in Football Manager; but his recent attempts to reinvent Gareth Bale as a floating trequartista look misguided from where NearPostFlick is sitting, and his teams tend to be slow to react to changing match dynamics. NPF is happy to be proved wrong – and looks forward to our ‘Arry out-thinking Jogi Low with the inspired deployment of Frank Lampard as an enganche this summer – but, somehow, we think we know how this is going to end. When Redknapp inevitably Swayzes into the longing arms of the FA, it’s likely to be the first act in England’s now-customary career-shortening biannual tragi-farce.

The Chasing Pack

Roy Hodgson

Many casual observers think Woy’s got the pedigwee. He could assemble a team based around his fundamental pwinciples – hard work, diwect play and welentless pwessing [that’s enough now] – from his allotment shed in Croydon. He’s probably planted his rhubarb in two banks of four. And in taking a hardly-gifted Swiss side to Euro ’96 (alright, Sforza and Chapuisat were OK) before stepping aside for the majestically-moustached Artur Jorge, he’s proven himself able to work with players of limited ability and transform them into a well-dwilled [sorry] unit. But there are worrying precedents in Roy’s career which count against him. Coaching England isn’t like coaching Switzerland, or Halmstad, or Grasshopper Zurich. It’s worryingly analagous to the jobs he’s failed in – Inter (arguably), Blackburn, Liverpool: a collection of pampered pros with big egos, ossified into a set of destructive habits and in forceful, aggressive denial of their failing abilities. Figures within the game also suggest that Hodgson’s approach to football needs time to bed in; seeing his players for three days a month would make his life nigh-on impossible.

But it’s a moot point as he won’t get it anyway. Moving on…

Jose Mourinho

Brilliant. No, really. Well done, national press, you’ve outdone yourselves here. Yes, £12m p/a could buy the FA an even more graceless way of losing quarter-finals. There might – just might – be a better use for that money. Build another Burton-on-Trent, perhaps. Give every FA staff member a diamond dildo and a subscription to Tatler. We don’t know. Just, not this. Oh, and you’ll note we’re not bothering at all with Pep Guardiola.

Brendan Rogers

Wait. What? No. Sorry. Anyway, he’s Northern Irish and the FA are going through one of their UKIP phases. Flavour of the month coach gets players on British soil to pass to each other shock. He’s good (though he’s built on the work of Paulo Sousa and Roberto Martinez), and persuading Leon Britton to be a bit more like Xavi is no mean feat. But let’s give the man a break and let him develop away from any of English football’s traditional lunatic asylums.

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Don’t laugh. Like you could do a better job.

Dark Horses

Guus Hiddink

NPF likes Guus Hiddink. We call him ‘Orange Guus’, then chuckle to ourselves for a good hour. But tax tax tax tax Sergei Semak tax rubbish with Turkey and didn’t seem to care tax tax tax wants a final big payday tax tax should probably wait for the Anzhi job to come up. Tax.

Black Beauty 

The definitive dark horse. Anna Sewell’s fictional mount has been mentioned in dispatches as a potential England manager, and it’s easy to see why. A thoroughbred reputation as a player at Derby saw him win many admirers; and following his enforced retirement through serious knee injuries, he’s proved an innovative thinker as a coach, displaying an aptitude for making critical tactical adjustments on the hoof. His interpretation of Karl Rappan’s ‘Swiss Bolt’ defensive system, the ‘Fetlock’, has been much imitated but never bettered – however, his historic distaste for Spurs could signal an end to Aaron Lennon’s international dreams were he appointed, and his inability to maintain a stable personal life – coupled with a disconcerting predilection for spending time with young girls – could yet stir up controversy. And, unlike absolutely all the other candidates on this list, really absolutely, unequivocally without exception, Black Beauty also has a reputation for saddling clubs he has managed with unmanageable wage bills, unbalanced playing staffs and first elevens of wildly varying quality before carpetbagging his way elsewhere and leaving his former employer in the lurch.   

Has 'previous' with Luis Suarez.