Next England manager? A pig in a waistcoat?

Date published: Monday 20th June 2016 9:53

Do you like Uncle Roy?

I do. I like the fact that he’s a bit of a bulwark against the shallow vacuity of modern football. I like that he’s calm and measured and not a media personality with a daft haircut. I like that he speaks foreign languages and isn’t thick. But mostly I like that he looks like an owl, obviously.

Judging from Greg Dyke’s badly-timed words this weekend, if we do OK for the next couple of games, Roy is likely to be given the chance to stay on in the nest as Owl-in-Chief.

I suspect this is as much to do with how difficult it now is to choose an England manager as the man’s success at football management. If the FA can put it off for as long as possible, they’ll be happy to do so.

Because the fact is, there’s no obviously well-qualified English manager, and no-one even knows what a well-qualified manager might look like. Employing a foreigner invokes the wrath of the tabloids, and the heavily medicated phone-in callers who talk about the non-British as though they are all the same people and the FA are scared of those bellicose voices.

When an international tournament is happening and England are involved, I think it forces us to think what being English is all about. But being English is an imprecise thing. We’re a mongrel nation and that’s actually what I personally rather like about us. We’re a nation of immigrants and emigrants, fashioned from people who fell in love with people from elsewhere, or just had a knee-trembler around the back of a pub, which in itself is one of this land’s greatest traditions.

My own heritage is Norse, French, Irish and York-bloody-shire. My missus is Afro-Caribbean, Scottish and Geordie. Yours is probably similarly diverse when you look into it. That’s what being English means, if it means anything. And our football team very much reflects the rich soup of our genetic heritage. We’re a multi-racial, multi-cultural rag-bag, bound together by our love of tea, fried breakfasts, binge-drinking and passive-aggressive tutting.

So does that mean we need an Englishman to manage England, or not?

This weekend, Greg Dyke’s suggestion it could be someone who is the F-word, but someone familiar who has worked in the Premier League, is a pragmatic solution. But which professional manager working in football doesn’t know the Premier League? This was an accusation thrown at Fabio Capello who, it was said, had never heard of Jack Rodwell and refused to consider picking him. An Englishman would have known Rodwell’s top quality, they argued. Jack who? That was typically narrow-minded and seems born out of the notion that foreigners are as ignorant of the English as these critics are of the foreign.

We’ve only had two non-English managers and they both suffered a lot of criticism because somehow not being English meant they lacked the passion (sorry, pash-un) to make England win anything: the manager not being English was why we lost. It was always rubbish. But lots of people believe rubbish like that and the FA (and others) fear those people. So it’s much easier to keep Roy in the job and avoid having to choose in the near future and allow the idea of a familiar Premier League non-English national manager to bed into the national consciousness.

However, international football is about pitting nation against nation. If the players have to be born in this country, then the manager should surely have to be too. The rules don’t require it, but surely that’s the nature of our lot against your lot. It’s not kow-towing to Little Englanders and xenophobes to think that, it’s just the principle of the country v country game; a test of nation against nation.

So who should replace Roy? Young, old, ex-player, or a well-trained pig in a colourful waistcoat? Who knows?

Many will push one name or another as a better manager, but in this context, what does better mean? You can never compare like with like because, whoever the prospective replacement is, he’s (of course, never she) never been manager of England before and being the England manager is a unique job, hard to judge against league performance. So there’s no-like-for-like comparison to be made

The better question is who is likely to be more successful? Big Sam, Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe or some Foreign Geezer what has managed a Premier League side, he knows the league, Jeff?

The whole England management position has been made vaguely ludicrous. Every claim made for every viewpoint, pro or anti-English, cerebral thinker or patriot tub-thumper has been contradicted on the pitch. Nothing is left untried (except having a female coach. What? STILL too soon?) And this is where we are. We have no more or less faith in anyone.

So Roy? Yeah, he’ll do. He’s nice and polite. But if not him, then, y’know, someone else. Almost anyone will do, because no-one cares much any more who is England manager and we all sense that beyond a point, it doesn’t make much difference really and that pig in a waistcoat is looking more attractive by the minute.

John Nicholson

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