It’s half-term for Gareth Southgate and it has occurred to me that whoever manages the England team will not make any difference if players do not possess the basic skills involved in playing football. Crossing the ball in the general direction of a man wearing the same coloured shirt seems to be a skill not taught at England’s centre of excellence. Joe Hart, God bless him, made some worldies against Slovenia, otherwise it would have been Iceland all over again.
After the turgid 0-0 draw in Slovenia Southgate was quoted as saying: “We had a couple of chances that on another day our forwards might have finished.” After the turgid 0-0 draw against Costa Rica in the World Cup Roy Hodgson was quoted as saying: “On another day Daniel Sturridge would have scored a hat-trick.” For England when will that other day arrive?
Jordan Henderson sees himself as the north-east version of the Scouse Steven Gerrard. He played a lovely ball from the heart of the England defence…. to a player from Slovenia and again Hart had to come to the rescue. Ten years ago Theo Walcott was taken to the World Cup as a teenager but did not play for one second. Since then it appears he has not been able to master the art of kicking a football generally in the right direction. Things only got interesting with two arrivals from the bench, Wayne Rooney having a last hurrah and Marcus Rashford showing he should start.
In the context of the next permanent manager it seems Southgate would do an adequate job and be polite to the media. A bad workman blames his tools but the tools (apt word really) that Southgate has at his disposal takes away any blame away for England being a poor, disorganised, boring international football team. That doesn’t matter though because they are unbeaten in two matches and have scored two goals without conceding. Against Malta and Slovenia.
These days it’s almost harder not to qualify for a major tournament than get through to the finals and this before the World Cup is expanded to 48 teams! The whole dynamic of the finals of the European Championships were disrupted by expanding the tournament from 16 to 24 teams. The football was mainly garbage and the winners Portugal, finished third in their group without winning a match at that stage. When it is generally accepted that there is too much football FIFA are discussing a World Cup that lasts two months and involves almost 100 matches.
Southgate has done nothing wrong as the England temporary manager and has cleared up the mess. He has experience of managing the Under-21s in a tournament and has worked with some of the senior players at that level. The bookmaking fraternity make him the clear favourite to become the third England boss in less than six months. If the FA choose somebody else that would be four managers of the national team since June. That must be a record!
There is a display of former England managers at the National Football Museum in Manchester. At the start of July Roy Hodgson’s picture was still in that display. There’s a running joke amongst staff about whose turn it is to put up the picture of the latest incumbent and there is a backlog. Big Sam has been written out of the history books and we still don’t know if Southgate will still appear after the World Cup qualifier against Scotland and friendly match with Spain.
Southgate is the most likely next man in charge but after him there are three foreigners in the betting. Roberto Mancini cocked things up at Manchester City, Arsene Wenger is too old and French and I’ve never heard of Ralf Rangnick. Glenn Hoddle and Eddie Howe are next in the betting and they would be an ideal pairing if the job is shared. Hoddle knows the ropes and Howe could spend the next four years observing and learning and than take the big job. Steve Bruce could be Big Sam in disguise but he does seem to have more integrity.
One big outsider quoted in the betting is Eric Cantona which would be a bizarre appointment. Alex Ferguson could take the role and put something in the player’s tea so that they caught something nasty just before playing Scotland. Ronald Koeman wouldn’t be a bad call but his career path after Everton is Barcelona and Holland. The FA will play it safe and appoint Southgate who on another day might be the manager of a half-decent national team but don’t hold your breath!