So, after yet another tournament humbling for the England national team, the Football Association has the unenviable task of finding someone both desperate and hubristic enough to thrust themselves into the breach as our country’s football saviour – and earn themselves a pretty penny into the bargain.
Roy Hodgson was always the ultra-safe choice after the disappointing reign of supercoach Fabio Capello; it predictably followed the recent trend to lurch from the cosy to the cavalier that has seen both Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren in the hot seat this millennium.
Now that Uncle Woy has done the noble thing and fallen on his sword, the head-scratchingly difficult task of finding an able English successor has sprung to life in about as lively a fashion as an octogenarian answering the door to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The reason for that is fairly plain: the dearth of outstanding homegrown candidates.
Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate may have just guided the young Lions to an impressive win at the renowned Toulon tournament but both his manner and credentials are about as limp as the missed penalty against Germany he is so (in)famous for. Remember, he took Middlesbrough down to the Championship and…and…erm, well that’s about it.
He’s also one of them; one of the institution’s men, dripping in all the blandness of the FA, with all the charisma of Michael Gove reading the Twickenham to Waterloo train timetable. He would surely represent more of the same – Hodgson Lite, if you will.
Former incumbent Glenn Hoddle has attracted more than enough support amongst some ex-pros and media types since the embarrassing defeat to Iceland, and while he’s not exactly making kissy-faces at the FA, you know he’s whipping his Nokia 3310 out of the pocket of his Chino’s every two minutes to make sure he’s had no missed calls with a central London dialling code.
Undoubtedly, he talks a cultured game. As a player he had a beautiful touch and a killer pass but lacked ruthlessness to be a real superstar. He was so nearly great and his time as a manager has been similar; some of his teams have nearly been good (Chelsea, Southampton, England). He’s also not been a manager since 2006, that’s just three years less than Graham Taylor. Do I not like that.
Hoddle knows how to deal with cossetted players, that’s for sure, but I can’t help but think his team would be like Narcissus, far too obsessed by its own beauty and aesthetic fluidity to actually put that into practical use – and we all know what happened to Narcissus in the end.
Gary Neville’s credentials took a severe knock thanks to his disastrous little busman’s holiday in Spain, rendering it necessary for him to find another opportunity to prove he can be as successful with real footballers as he is with a giant iPad.
Last, but not least (especially in his own mind), is Alan Pardew. Universally disliked/ridiculed by everyone outside of that small galaxy in the Croydon quadrant, Pardew is the kind of character you either loathe or loathe more.
He’s had a modicum of success wherever he’s been (Newcastle 5th place Premier League finish, West Ham FA Cup final, Crystal Palace FA Cup final) yet has a recurring habit of eventually engendering enough acrimony to make his name taboo in certain parts of the country. If nothing else, his charismatic personality and ability to get the best out of players would get football fans flocking to Ticketgum.com to purchase tickets for the World Cup qualifiers. Nowadays, supporters are more inclined to spend their nights playing Scrabble. It is usually more entertaining than watching Hodgson’s England.
One other thing Pardew has got going for him is that he’s no respecter of reputations or egos, so if Raheem Sterling needs a clip around the ear for showing up to training with a diamond encrusted Prince Albert or Guus Hiddink needs reminding how close he is to fossilising then Pards is our man.
All this rather motley bunch of options does is make the odds on another foreign coach leading the Three Lions look more attractive. Could it be Arsene Wenger, Laurent Blanc or Jurgen Klinsmann for example, all of whom are high up in the betting? Whoever is unveiled in the end, this appointment is crucial to the future appeal of the England national team to its beleaguered supporters; something that for many has – once and for all – been irreparably damaged.