Since England’s diabolical exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, Roy Hodgson has taken the decision to resign from the England manager’s job before he was hounded out. Now, a couple of weeks on, Sam Allardyce is the odds-on favourite to take over from Hodgson, having held talks with the FA this week. The Sunderland manager has divided opinion over whether he is the right man for the England job, with many voicing concerns that his playing style is too old fashioned for international football. However, with very few obvious alternatives appearing to be available, the FA might not have much choice over whether to make the appointment.
The favourite for the job is the current Sunderland manager, Sam Allardyce. He is best known for his role with Bolton Wanderers, when he led them into the Premier League and even pushed on for a place in the UEFA Cup. When he eventually left the club, they were in fifth place. He has since gone on to manage many English footballing heavyweights such as Newcastle United and West Ham United, but has never managed a club at the very highest level, and has been unable to win any major league titles during his time as a manager. Allardyce has been approached regarding the England job this week and looks a certainty to be appointed, but many people have claimed that Allardyce’s playing style simply does not suit international football.
He came under criticism at West Ham for his playing style, which eventually led to him leaving the club, and he has been branded as an “old school” manager by some. Manchester United manager, José Mourinho, one claimed that Allardyce played “19th century football”, and that is a criticism that has been echoed by many pundits and fans. While Allardyce’s style of play is not seen as a problem for most of his club sides, such as Sunderland, many people question whether it is appropriate for an international side. He successfully guided Sunderland to safety last season, but people wonder if he might find it more difficult to play against teams who sit deeper against him, as he may not be able to play his favoured direct, counter attacking style of play. Personally, I think England could benefit from playing a more direct style against stronger opposition as I feel it is time for England to accept that they are not a world class team and that they must grind out results sometimes, as they lack the ability to win games consistently while playing attractive football.
However, the problem will be when England face lower quality opposition who are content to keep eleven men behind the ball and force England to play through them. In these situations, long ball football will be ineffective as the opposition will be too compact for attacking players to receive knock-downs and too deep for strikers to run in behind the defence. The only option will be to pass through the opposition, remaining patient until an opportunity arises to break defenses down. These tactics are rarely seen from Allardyce’s club sides, and many people feel that he may be unable to adapt in order to employ these tactics in international football. I am inclined to agree, and feel that the best way to ensure that England can get results against both the strong teams and the weak teams is to employ a job share for such matches.
If a part-time manager was brought in as well as Allardyce, then England might be able to change style more easily, incorporating the forward thinking ideas of a younger manager, while the “19th century football” of Allardyce could be used as the foundations for the success of the England squad. I think this is the only way England will really be able to progress as a footballing nation, as it is important for the team to have basic footballing habits drummed into them, ensuring that they remain organised off the ball and defend as a unit, while also being able to use new, less traditional ideas in attack. For me, the fact that Allardyce needs a younger manager alongside him for England to improve is clear; the only question is who that man should be.
The second favourite for the job is German legend, Jürgen Klinsmann. He is currently managing the USA national team, a job which he had held since 2011. He has also had spells as manager of both the German national team, and Bayern Munich, though he has never managed in England. For many, including me, this is the major flaw in his legitimacy for the job. I feel that if somebody is going to take over the national team of a country, they must have had some experience managing in that country before, even if they are not from there. Klinsmann played in England for Tottenham Hotspur, but I feel that football has moved on in this country since he left in 1995 and that he would have to gain experience as a manager in England if he wanted to be considered as manager of the national team.
During his spell as manager of Germany, he led them into the 2006 World Cup, ending up coming third in the tournament, having lost to the eventual winners, Italy, in the semi final. He chose not to renew his contract after the tournament due to wanting to go back to normal family life. One of the biggest criticisms of Klinsmann’s reign was that he commuted from his home in the USA, which made many people question his commitment to the German national team. Following an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich, Klinsmann was appointed as manager of the USA national team, and he has since led them to the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup and, more recently, third place in the Copa America. Although he is not overly popular with the fans of the US team, there can be no denying that his tenure has been a successful one so far. He has been praised in the past for his upheaval of the youth systems where he has managed, and that that could work in his favour with England looking to bring through a host of young players to form the core of future squads. However, his playing style is not a million miles away from the one preferred by Sam Allardyce, so he is unlikely to be appointed as part of a job share with “Big Sam.”
At 9/1, Eddie Howe is looking more and more like an outsider for the England job. The young manager has been revered for taking Bournemouth from the football league’s basement division to the Premiership, and avoiding relegation last season. Along the way, he has broken many club records, such as recording the Cherries’ first ever wins over both Chelsea and Manchester United last season. The thing that is most appealing about Howe for the England job is that, though he is lacking in experience, he is renowned for his fluid style of football at Bournemouth, especially seeing as newly promoted sides rarely play such adventurous football. In my opinion, at the age of 38, and with only a short spell at Burnley in addition to his six years at the helm at Bournemouth, he is too young and inexperienced to be given the England job in his own right, but feel that it would be a mistake for the FA not to capitalise on his forward-thinking ideas about coaching.
I think he could be the perfect man to complement Sam Allardyce in the England set up, with his fluid passing football offering an alternative to Allardyce’s uncompromising, direct approach. At the age of 61, Allardyce is unlikely to be in the England job for more than a few years, so a job share with Eddie Howe would allow Howe to gain experience of international football while continuing his work at Bournemouth, which would then leave him in the perfect position to take over from Allardyce when he retires or leaves his position. Even if Allardyce was unwilling to share the manager’s job, a role in the under 21 side is the least Howe should be given, and his input when playing against the less outgoing nations could be invaluable. In my opinion, it is an absolute must for the FA to get Eddie Howe involved with England so they can blood him so that he is ready to take over the responsibility of managing the national team in the future.
One of the more surprising names to be linked with the England job in the last few days is Hull manager, Steve Bruce. Bruce has just guided Hull City to promotion back into the premiership at the first time of asking, after beating Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs. However, in the 2014-15 season, Bruce’s Hull were relegated from the Premier League. Most people were astonished when it was reported that Bruce had been interviewed regarding the England job, as it is almost unheard of for somebody to be offered the chance to manage the national team when they were not even managing in the top division the previous season. Although Bruce has gained a wealth of experience in management over the years, he has never managed to win a major league title, though he did manage to get to the FA Cup final with Hull City, which they lost to Arsenal after extra time. For me, Bruce is not the right man for the England job, as he does not offer anything that is not already offered by one of the front-runners for the job. His style of play is adaptable to different situations, which is a positive aspect, but he has never managed an international side, or one of the world’s top clubs. Because of this, although Bruce would not be an awful choice for the England job, he does not offer anything which would help to transform the fortunes of the national team.
Somebody whose name has not been mentioned surrounding the England job, and cannot be found anywhere on the list of odds to be the next England manager, is Mark Hughes. I find this remarkable as, after the job he has done at Stoke City, he has proved himself to be one of the Premier League’s most competent managers. When Hughes took over at Stoke, they were infamous for their physicality and “hoof-ball” style. However, since his appointment in May 2013, he has completely transformed the way the club is viewed by outsiders, with some branding them “Stoke-alona”. Under Hughes’ leadership, Stoke has become a side who are still capable of grinding out results with gritty performances, but can also play beautiful flowing football which would not be out of place in the Theater of Dreams. This has shown Hughes’ tactical dexterity, which is something much sort after on the international stage. An England manager who would be able to switch between defensive and attacking football, short and direct passing, and flick between various tactical systems is something the national team have been looking for for decades, and I simply cannot understand why Hughes does not even seem to be in the discussion for the England job.
Critics of Hughes will point to the previous failings, such as when he was at the helm of Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers, both of which saw him sacked after short spells in charge. However, I would defend Hughes by saying that the Manchester City job came too early for him, as it was the first time he had been given huge sums of money to spend on players, and that he was forced to go out and buy top names for huge prices, when he has proven himself to be savvy in the transfer market when handed more modest budgets. As for the QPR job, I think he was doomed to fail from the start, as it would have been impossible to bend such huge, highly paid egos to his will in order to build a successful side at QPR. As more recent Hoops managers have found, it is difficult to get the most out of players when they are earning vast amounts of money and do not feel any responsibility to help the club.
Another thing in Hughes’ favour is that he has gained lots of experience from his managerial career so far and, as has been seen with the job he is doing at Stoke, he is clearly getting more competent with every year that passes. Although Hughes is not English, he is British and has had plenty of Premiership experience so I feel he is more than capable of managing the England team. Like Sam Allardyce, I feel he would bring something new to the international scene and would use a more traditional style of play with England. However, he does not seem to be in the FA’s thoughts regarding the job so may have to wait a few more years before he is considered.
In conclusion, I think that, although Mark Hughes would be as good an option as anybody for the England job, the best realistic option for the FA would be to appoint Sam Allardyce as manager, while giving Eddie Howe a taste of the international scene at the same time. Whether Howe was given a job with the senior team as a coach, or appointed as the under 21 manager, I think it is imperative that the FA try and prepare him for the manager’s job that he will surely occupy in future. While I don’t think Howe is ready at the moment, he must be included in some way and his input could be invaluable for helping Sam Allardyce prepare for the matches against less adventurous nations who will be prepared to sit behind the ball for long periods of the game. Although there is a striking difference between the philosophies of the two coaches, I think that could help the England team find a blend of traditional and futuristic playing and coaching styles. In addition, it would help groom Howe for a future role as England manager. As far as I am concerned this is clearly the path that the FA must take in order to take the country forward as a footballing nation. Besides, Big Sam can’t do any worse than his predecessor!