There’s been growing support in recent days for Gareth Southgate to become the long term successor to Sam Allardyce as England manager. He’s clearly popular among his peers and seems a decent, honest, whiter than white, non-confrontational kinda guy. But if that’s what the FA want from an England manager then why the hell didn’t they appoint him 67 days ago?! We all knew what to expect from Allardyce, of course none of us might take it quite as far the Daily Telegraph mind, but he’s always had that roguish secondhand car salesman air about him. Either way it was a short lived affair and Big Sam’s fallen on his sword, taking with him £1million and an impressive 100% winning record.
Gareth Southgate has four games to prove he’s worthy of the task in hand and they’re not particularly challenging games or shouldn’t be at least for such a talented squad, and perhaps it’ll be the friendly with Spain that will determine his fate. As a manager his record is less than impressive, especially when you consider it’s the England job. Sam’s wasn’t too mouthwatering either and it beggars belief that given it’s the highest paid national team job in football, the FA might didn’t just go out and get someone who’s won trophies and has a proven track record of success.
Southgate has managed Middlesbrough and the England Under 20’s/21’s. In 151 games in charge at the Riverside he accumulated 45 victories and 63 defeats with 43 draws in between giving him a win percentage of 29.80. He was a pundit on ITV, and at one stage it looked like management was just a passing phase. His time managing England’s young bucks has been relatively successful but this is incomparable and that job really holds no bearing unless he’d been intrinsically involved in the building of a system and style of play in unison with his predecessors in much the same way that Spain have done.
So what are the options well there are a few other names to consider when it comes to taking on the big gig. First up has to be Arsene Wenger. There’s plenty of talk of him finally letting go of the Gunner’s reins come next summer, which seems fortuitous at the very least. An understanding of English football that matches anyone in the modern game, makes him a priority, if not at least worthy of a tentative enquiry as to his position from the FA. Having managed well over 1000 games and with a win percentage that accounts for over half, 3 Premier League titles and 6 FA Cups – surely we should be rolling out the red carpet come the end of May 2017. And with his ability to consistently ensure Arsenal make the top four, would surely mean England could look forward to at the very least a semi-final spot at the next World Cup. It’ll be Wenger’s decision in the end, he’s so accustomed to the English game and what it entails he’d probably say no anyway.
Rafa Benitez is a knockout competition specialist who is operating beneath his managerial status in The Championship. His nous and talent for extracting results and performances out of no more than an average squad of players (Champions League 2005) makes him a prime candidate. He’d be an unpopular choice with Chelsea and United fans and Newcastle for that matter, but his record and attention to detail, his in-game management and tactical awareness make Benitez a prime candidate. Would England have lost to Iceland in the Euro’s with Rafa at the helm – absolutely not, and they’d have probably gone on and won the whole thing in thrilling, nail biting fashion. Just for the record he has a win percentage of better than half and this is manager well on his way to a 1000 games. He was cruelly treated by Madrid and if he was still there today his team would be no worse off than Zidane’s version.
Let’s at this point just note that the FA’s so-called refusal to appoint a foreign manger, whilst making no sense is surely redundant after the Allardyce episode. There’s no more successful an Anglophile than Arsene Wenger and after twenty years at Arsenal, he’s practically an honorary citizen. As for Benitez, his family are so happy and content on Merseyside they refused to leave after he lost the Liverpool job, and his kids are now rockin’ around with scouse accents – that makes him a candidate.
And so finally the Englishman. Eddie Howe and Alan Pardew are both reasonable suggestions, but lack the experience or temperament – you decide which fits who. If the FA want a young English manager then they should jump on a train and head to Turf Moor, where Sean Dyche is continuing to punch well above his weight metaphorically speaking. He ticks every box – loyal, good with young men, uncompromising yet respectful of the press, unfazed. Ask yourself this, would the recent Joey Barton debacle at Rangers have happened last season at Burnley under the steely gaze of Dyche? No way, because he’d have kicked Barton into next week, and Joey knows it. A great record that’s getting better every week – if it’s a young English manager then Dyche is the man, and having managed over 200 games with a win percentage in the 40’s in modest surroundings – he makes a mockery of Southgate’s air to the throne.
A last mention must go to the forgotten man and probably the one person who’s ever wanted this poisoned chalice as much as Allardyce did, yes Harry Redknapp. A man who seems to have part exchanged the rigours of management for the role of part-time pundit and sometime celebrity raconteur. Could he energise and inspire a swollen group of young Englishmen who think they know the ways of the world? Could he work as a senior figure with a younger coach by his side? Be damn sure he could, just ask Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Mchael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and Harry Kane and they’ll tell you the answer, and the best bit is he’d take us all on the journey with him.