The second most important job in England will be up for grabs after Euro 2012, and if the FA’s word means anything, our next national manager will be English-speaking. Whether this is a positive step for English football or a populist move to garner support, only time will tell, but it does allow us to draw up a shortlist of possible candidates.
Redknapp is the early favourite for the job, after leading Tottenham into Europe’s premier competition for the first time in 38 years. He can boast of a successful managerial career with Bournemouth, Portsmouth and West Ham, only blighted by relegation with Southampton and allegations of corruption against him. However, he has never managed a club with title aspirations, and prior to this season he had no experience at the top level of European football, let alone international football. And there is still reluctance within the FA to approach a man with question marks remaining over his financial dealings. That said, Redknapp is currently the top-ranking British manager in the Premier League, and would jump at the chance to lead England into the 2014 World Cup.
The current Liverpool manager has vast experience at both club and international level, having managed teams in eight different countries, as well as three international teams. He also has a noted ability to turn around a team’s fortunes. This has been shown throughout his career, from his two Swedish Championships with Halmstad in the 70’s, all the way through to transforming Fulham from relegation certainties into Europa League finalists. He also took Switzerland to their first World Cup for 28 years in 1994, in which they reached the last 16, and then proceeded to lead them to qualification for Euro 96. Hodgson is a fantastic man-manager, tactically astute, and would not be fazed by the demands associated with managing England. However, much may depend on whether he is successful in halting Liverpool’s sharp decline, and proving that he can successfully manage an English team with ambitions of winning the title.
“Psycho” has had a mixed start to his managerial career, but Pearce’s experience working with Capello in the England set-up sets him in good stead, as does his record managing the U-21s. Under the former Nottingham Forest left-back, England’s next generation have reached the semi-finals and final of the last two European Championships, heights not reached since the mid 80’s. Pearce would also have the immediate respect of the players, with his 78 caps and achievement of reaching the semi-finals of both the World Cup and the European Championships. He is still relatively inexperienced however, and would probably need to manage a big team before he could be seriously considered for the job.
The appointment of “Big Sam” would be met with derision by some football fans, who feel that his style of football is old-fashioned and not suited to top level players. However, Allardyce has a record of getting the best out of players reaching the end of their careers, such as Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff. He also significantly over-achieved at Bolton, taking them from the First Division to European football for the first time in their history. The lack of a big club and significant silverware on his CV will hurt Allardyce’s chances though, especially after being passed over by the FA in 2006.
The former Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa manager has been a success wherever he’s managed, winning two League Cups with Leicester and establishing Aston Villa as a top six club. He also has top-level European experience, having reached the Uefa Cup final and Champions League group stage with Celtic. As far as silverware goes, O’Neill can point to the three SPL titles and three Scottish Cups he earned during his time in Glasgow. O’Neill’s skill at developing young English talent is also impressive. James Milner, Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young all have the Irishman to thank for their footballing education. O’Neill was rejected for the England post in 2006, but the selectors may not make the same mistake twice. Speaking of which…
The “wally with the brolly” had an admittedly disastrous first spell in charge of England, but his achievements since then speak for themselves. Last season, he became the first English manager since Bobby Robson in 1996 to win a major European league title, taking an unfancied FC Twente side to their first ever Eredivisie trophy. This earned him the chance to manage high-flying German club VfL Wolfsburg. The Bundesliga is a tougher league than the Eredivisie, but if he can succeed with Wolfsburg, he will be well placed to move on to a truly top-quality team. He also seems to have matured in his tactical approach, balancing pragmatism with experimentalism as he regularly changed formations in his title triumph at Twente. McClaren already knows what leading England is like, and seems wiser and mentally stronger for the experience. However, it is unlikely after the embarrassment he brought on the FA last time that they will allow him near the national set-up anytime soon. This may turn out to be England’s loss.
Hodgson stands out from the rest in terms of his experience of managing top-flight clubs, and also has the unique achievement amongst the candidates of having led a country to a World Cup. However, he must guide Liverpool to a more respectable place in the league if he is to become England manager.