Mails: What about Van Gaal for England?

Daniel Storey

Keep those emails coming to


Pick Van Gaal for England
England need an experienced international manager with the ability to…. (Rules out almost everyone off the bat)

(1) Build up the confidence of the young squad & rebalance the team
(2) Not be afraid to drop English players who clearly can’t handle tournament football. (Rooney, Hart, Cahill?)
(3) Steady a sinking ship while also actually coaching these players. (Rules out Pardew)
(4) Not be afraid to play to their strengths
(5) Know the English league
(6) Tactically flexible
(7) Respected by players (Rules out Shearer, Southgate, Hoddle, etc.)
(8) Capable of winning trophies (Rules out all available English coaches)
(9) Someone who’ll actually want the job (Rules out Wenger & Blanc)

I find it incredible to see no one has mentioned Louis Van Gaal’s name. I do, however, think Guus Hiddink is the messiah England fans should turn to.

Guus Hiddink has twice successfully managed Chelsea and in his latest spell he steadied a relegation bound ship to midtable while handing debuts to Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Jake Clarke-Salter, Matt Miazga & improved Kenedy/Bertrand Traore/Ruben Loftus-Cheeks performances hugely.

Not to mention he has managed Real Madrid, Valencia(x2), PSV (x2), Real Betis, Fenerbahce, Anzhi, Netherlands (x2), Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Australia.

He has managed 155 international games and only lost 43 with a very average lot of nations/squads. Giving him a win percentage of 50%.

He will not shoehorn players into teams. He will give his players confidence. At the very worst, in 2 years time, he’ll have made them better players.

Have a suitable replacement lined up as his assistant manager. This is a manager a coach can learn from. Gary Neville could learn a lot from Hiddinks aura and calmness along with his Dutch coaching techniques.

A lot of the same argument can be said for Louis Van Gaal. I’m sure Smalling & Rashford would love it. My worry of LvG is the media pressure attached to England is no different than Man Utd. Now is time for calm heads with a youthful squad already in place.

Just some food for thought.
Cozzy ( Chelsea fan/ Irish)


Pick Allardyce to play ‘English’ football
So, what next for England? I’d like us to aspire to something more, and I don’t like him, but would an Allardyce appointment and a back to basics mentality work? When I say “work”, I don’t mean win something, I simply mean make us more competitive and give us the chance to upset some of the big boys. He’ll unapologetically do things his way. Unlike Hodgson, he wouldn’t pander to ego’s or shoehorn attacking players in to a system without balance. And he certainly wouldn’t try and “develop” our game in to something that isn’t natural, or suited to us. We can’t play Spanish possession football, so why do we seemingly aspire to do that?

Italy are as Italian as they’ve always been, and are looking strong. Iceland are playing 442 football from the 1980’s and are making it work. Coleman is telling Bale to play in a team that isn’t trying to be Real Madrid. Perhaps we should return to our initial identity too? I see the way Germany have evolved and I like it, but are we capable of evolving as they have?

Just thinking of English players that fit this mould:

You eliminate egos and get the team to play with unity and to their strengths. You don’t ask the players to try and imitate another style or nation but simply to play to their natural identity.

Believe me, as a Wengerite Gooner this goes against my principles. But it’s a team with a natural identity, and not one trying to impersonate an identity that isn’t natural.

What do others think?
Naz, Gooner


Pick Bob Bradley
Here’s a name only someone from the states would consider for the England job: Bob Bradley.

He was at the helm of a very successful campaign as Team USA manager, including a team that finished above England in the 2010 World Cup Group Stage. He guided the Egyptian National team during very turbulent times He has proven his chops at the club level in Norway and France. He almost took Le Havre to Ligue 1 the past season.

Granted he is not the kind of name you might associate with the England manager, but he just might be what the team need. Just a thought.
David O, California


Laddism is to blame
The school where I work has an off-timetable week just before the summer holidays. The students get to choose an activity for the week from a range of options. I am working with a group of Year 7 students (11/12 years old) who will be receiving football coaching for the week from a nearby premier league team. What an opportunity. All I am doing is registering them and dealing with any issues that come up, the professional coaches will do the rest.

I had an hour with the group the other day. I wanted them to really grab this opportunity with both hands and came up with some activities to help them reflect on their skills as footballers. The idea was to watch some clips of great players (Xavi, Bergkamp, Lahm) and discuss what makes them great. Then they were to write down their own strengths and weaknesses as players with the idea that the week was about improving upon their weaknesses.

When it came round to it the group weren’t interested in this kind of thought. They just wanted to crack jokes and have some ‘bantz’. There were two girls in the group and I had to send one boy out for sexist comments.

It struck me that this laddism from a group who in other situations are perfectly mature and thoughtful is part of England’s problem. They have no interest in the tactical side of the game. There is no critical evaluation of the sport and no reflection. The famous Ajax school cultivate this in a way that doesn’t happen in England. It’s left us firstly without high-calibrate managers and secondly players who are unable to tactically influence a game whilst on the pitch. This was incredibly evident on Monday evening. The players just didn’t know what to do. They quickly ran out of ideas.

In contrast, the Italians were fantastic against Spain with their tactical understanding underpinning their performance. Every player knew their role and the roles of others. They had a plan and when Spain changed their approach they were independently able to adapt that plan to counter the threat. English players are just so far from being able to do this.

The anti-intellectualism has been discussed for a while with Le Saux’s Guardian reading often cited as an example. Sadly it’s not improved much. There’s a myriad of reasons for England’s poor performances on the international stage but the lack of interest in the science of the game from the players is an important factor.
Jon Tucker, Southampton


Why not have one manager for qualifying, and another for tournaments?
Here’s a different idea for an international manager, why not appoint one just for the tournament?

For a country like England the qualifying pretty much takes care of itself, especially in the expanded Euros format, so you could let the likes of Southgate, Allardyce and Bruce take over for those games and realise their dream of being England manager. But as soon as the qualifiers are over then the tournament manager comes in and takes over for the friendlies leading up to the tournament and over the course of the tournament itself. The aforementioned qualifying manager could stay around in an assistant/coach role at that point.

Recruit someone who is good in short bursts, who can motivate a team, provide that missing mental strength and doesn’t have to worry about looking ahead to the next generation or feeling loyalty to players who have served them well in qualifying. They have one objective, win the World Cup/Euros.

Obviously this role would come with a large financial bonus attached so you could attract the top managers, even someone at a club like a Guardiola, Klopp or Mourinho as the games won’t conflict with their club duties.

Downsides, they wouldn’t have much time to instil their playing style in to the players but is that any different from Hodgson who only gets the players after the season ends when they’ve had months of being told to play a certain way for their club only for them to be asked to fit a different system for their country?

Graeme Kennedy


Important points on England’s mental strength
I’m aware that this might seem a bit wishy-washy whilst the bloodhounds of defeat are still out, but I wanted to register a few thoughts about ‘mental strength’ as it is been bandied about quite a lot in the few days. Specifically, I want to register a concern.

In your really rather good book top 10 the other day you included both Robert Enke’s biography and Paul McGrath’s autobiography and made very salient points about the combination of factors footballers are exposed to they might make them susceptible to the ravages of mental health issues. The line that jarred was about them actually being ‘potentially vulnerable young people’. I can’t claim to know diddly squat about elite level football (and neither if they were honest can most adding in their tuppence worth) but I have worked extensively with young people and I would not be comfortable being in the environment the England team are in now without intervening.

The time-worn line is that the vast sums of money doesn’t protect from the mental strain of being a footballer, and we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to trot out the ‘what’s he got to worry about’ school of logic. But I think on some deeper level this is not something that people really believe, and so their actions reflect it. As a case in point, take Raheem Sterling, about whom concerns were raised from the England camp. Firstly, I think we’d all be affected by the criticism he has been given and we have all seen examples of criticism disproportionate to any bad performance on a football pitch.

Secondly, the way in which this way reported, even in usually sensitive sources, was tantamount to a physical injury that would be an inconvenience to the team (Sterling is out with strained feelings). It’s not really the same thing though, and I felt uncomfortable reading about reported this way. Lastly, it seems that as he has had these problems and coupled with poor performances, it is OK to glibly regard him as ‘broken’, like the piece of football playing equipment we are essentially reducing him to.

It might not necessarily be an issue to Sterling, and this isn’t really about him as Hart, Kane, Alli, Rooney are all getting torrents of abuse both in the press and perhaps more relevantly for them on social media, direct to the palm of their hands. I think it’s worth considering of our own responses and capacity to injure, before the significant levels of trauma catch up with someone, if not at this tournament or the next one then one further down the line.
James, (it’s not like doing sudokus in the gym builds mental strength), AVFC


On Poland vs Portugal
If ever a game had a look of 0-0 through 120 minutes, this is it. Poland have one of the best defensive back lines at the tournament, and prefer to counterattack. Portugal showed themselves capable of excellent defense against Croatia, with Pepe in particularly good form (and actually behaving himself).

In addition, both teams lack creativity in the middle of the park. Joao Moutinho has been a bust for Portugal. Blaszczykowski can be dangerous on the wing, but needs space to operate, and if Portugal play conservatively, he’ll get stifled.

Both sides get good movement up front by their strikers, and Portugal have the edge here: Ronaldo has come into some kind of form, Milik and Lewandowski have not. But Ronaldo saw very little of the ball against Croatia, and there’s no reason to believe that’ll change.

I’ll be thrilled to be proven wrong. But if it goes to penalties, Portugal is the more likely winner. Against Switzerland, Fabianski gave one of the most abject performances in shootout history.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Farewell Skrtel
Bye, Skrtel.

A coward on the pitch and a coward in real life.

Don’t unnecessarily wrestle with the door on your way out.
Kris, LFC, Manchester