England have the perfect coach in Gareth Southgate, according to some, but others dream of a Harry XI.
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England need another Southgate
It’s laughable really that we’re even discussing replacing Southgate as England manager, his achievements in the role easily surpass anyone since Ramsey and with a World Cup only eight weeks away it would be a blatant act of self-harm to sack him now. Even more absurd however are the names touted as his replacement, Pochettino, Zidane, Redknapp! I even had a mate the other day suggest Brendan Rodgers as the best option. I despair.
It seems obvious to me that when looking for a new manager to replace Southgate (after the World Cup at the earliest) then we should probably analyse what might have made him the most successful England manager for 50 years and then seek those attributes in his successor.
- So firstly he should probably be English or at the very least have worked extensively in England and be fluent in English. This lesson should have been learnt with Capello but then some suggest Zidane.
- He should have a deep knowledge and understanding of the players available in the present and those who will be coming of age in the future. Southgate’s familiarity with England’s U-21’s was certainly beneficial and it would be senseless for the new guy to lack this to a similar degree.
- He should be tactically conservative. Like it or not history shows that defensive solidity and midfield control works best in international tournaments.
- He should be a progressive coach. Southgate has spoken extensively of squad unity and empowering the players to be confident. It would be a shame to replace him with a ‘just get stuck in’ kind of shouty dinosaur
- He should have an acute understanding of the pressures involved with playing for England, how this can damage mental health, and have methods for countering this. Southgate’s experience as an England player probably prepared him for this in a unique way but it’s a quality that cannot be ignored
- He should really want the job. Its sounds obvious but this shouldn’t be a stepping stone to another job or something to do while a better club opportunity comes along. The England manager should be committed to the role and have a plan for what he can do to be successful
- It matters little what his current club record is. The ‘he got Middlesbrough relegated’ trope has clearly been shown for what it is, meaningless.
I’m sure there are more attributes that I’ve missed and I don’t know enough about coaches outside the Premier League to say who best suits these characteristics but six years ago the FA actually for once made a good decision, lets not waste what we’ve learned since and go back to the old methodology of picking national managers.
England are stuck with Southgate and that’s probably fine
Unless England had thumped Italy away I think everyone was expecting the sort of OTT reaction we’ve got. Its a foregone conclusion for a lot of fans now that Southgate must go.
The game was incredibly boring. Neither team really had skin in the game, relegation from the Nations League group doesn’t mean much and lets face it, no player was 100% interested. Who would risk an injury before the WC in a meaningless international? There were so many poor first touches from England players it was embarrassing.
I’m not a Southgate apologist by any means. However a lot of people are going too far with rewriting his achievements as some kind of fluke. This kind of revisionism is never aimed at making someone look better in hindsight. Should we all write off Sir Alf because he got lucky with a goal line decision? Was Sir Bobby a mug because his team drudged through an easy group in 1990?
Tactically there are a lot of hallmarks in the way Southgate sets the team up to play which are frustrating; the infuriating way any overlap is used to cut back and pass backwards, only to filter the ball to the other side and do the same thing. The lack of anyone running in behind is also a problem; Kane isn’t that kind of player, so having other players who will do that running is vital, but the wide-forwards always seem to drop back with Kane and try to dribble through defences. Top class defenders eat that up for breakfast, lunch and tea. So if you are not crossing, and not running in behind, where are the goals going to come from other than set-pieces?
Selection is one area where we’ve fallen back in to the toxic trend as a fan base on assuming constructing an entirely different XI, with entirely different tactics is easy and will yield better results. This happens nearly every time England don’t play to the barnstorming standard they have never reached in the history of time and yet somehow a lot of fans expect.
Fans calling for Southgate to go now are, I assume, expecting Harry Redknapp to drop in, and in just a couple of training sessions with players who have barely played together before, make a WC winning team? The hard truth is that after tonight, the next time England get together will be just before the WC, with no time to embed anything new. Bielsa, Redknapp, or whoever else you like to parachute in, are not idiots, they won’t want to dump everyone and get a bunch of strangers to play in a radically different way.
What you would see is continuity in squad and team selection, with perhaps some tweaks tactically, which may or may not work. Also those calling for Bielsa have forgotten the time of year when most WCs are played. England are usually knackered before a ball is kicked in June/July, Bielsa’s way of playing would be impossible for this reason and also in a tournament format.
There’s no point to all this rambling other than to say people will have to deal with the fact that its too late to change managers now before the WC. What will happen will happen and I think, whatever happens, be it limited failure, qualified success or going all the way, Southgate will leave at the end of the tournament. Everyone wanting him gone (and those who would probably discredit him even if he won the bloody thing) will get their wish, and they can start sharpening their knives for the next bloke.
My two cents is that we’ll trudge through the group with dull football but enough breathing space through set piece goals, penalties and the occasional one from open play, play a cagey couple of games in the knockouts and just about reach the semis to again get beaten on penalties. Twas ever thus for England, and I fear always will be.
Who would Harry play?
Ohh God, It’s been a long time since I wrote into the F365 mailbox, but I couldn’t resist, once I saw the notion arise for Sir Harry Redknapp to take over England for the World Cup.
Southgate’s done a fine job at England, but after watching some of the biggest (or at least most expensive) names in World football, trudge through ultra-vanilla 0-0s and 1-0 defeats for a year and a half, it’s hard not to be seduced by the thoughts of a swashbuckling Harry Redknapp side instead.
With that in mind, here’s how I’d see ‘Arry’s England take shape. (4-4-2, of course)
In the nets, I’m going with Ramsdale. It’s my personal Pickford bias, that I can only hope Harry shares.
4 at the back: Reece James on the right, gets the nod from Harry who’ll use Trent as a David Bentley style depth right winger instead. Eric Dier displaces Maguire, and joins Stones in the middle, while Luke Shaw wins his place at left back, having had his confidence rejuvenated by ‘Arry’s arm around the shoulder management style.
In Centre mid, it’s Rice and Bellingham – A Harry Redknapp dream, as he sees Rice as a more athletic Scott Parker, and Bellingham the perfect combination of Luka Modric and Sandro.
An out and out winger in Bukayo Saka on the right, while Foden wins the battle of the cheeky chappies on the left to beat out Grealish. Grealish will play plenty though, as Redknapp sees his as a modern regen of Niko Kranjcar.
Up top, it’s the new and improved little and large formula that thrived with Crouchy and Defoe – Raheem Sterling tucked in close as a number 10 behind Harry Kane. Two players Redknapp probably dreamed of coaching.
As an Irish man, it feels very strange to say I’d be excited to watch that team…
Go on FA… make it happen.
Andy, Spurs, Eire
The players ARE good enough
Sorry, but Jonny Nic’s (and others’) premise that we don’t have the players is quite patently not true. What, you think it was Southgate’s amazing tactical approach that saw us reach a semi and a final? Come on now.
Let’s look at the players. Bearing in mind club bias, Grealish, Foden and Sterling all made it into the best team the league has seen under probably the best manager since Sir Alex. One has since transferred to a club that could afford to buy anyone.
I cannot think of many better RBs than TAA and James. Feel free to say who is better but let’s say for argument that there are 2 or 3. That still makes both our two in the top 5.
Kane is a very good, if not necessarily world class, striker. He just needs supply. Is there much depth there? Meh, it’s a mixed bag but Toney is doing damn well at a smaller club.
Bellingham is one of the best talents in world football and has racked up a lot of excellent games for Dortmund, and plays well for England. Rice is excellent, would get into most sides. Philips even good enough to be picked up by Pep. Mount?
Sancho is a top talent, only ABUs would say otherwise, and is starting to get back to his usual form. Rashford too, now he’s under an actual manager and coach. Add in Saka who everyone seems to love. All of these would be in the squad at least of most international sides.
At ‘keeper we have a number of excellent options. Maybe not the very best, but more than good enough.
Centre back and left back is probably our weakness, but not so terrible. Chilwell and Shaw are hardly poor, would make it into most national sides.
So tell me again how the players available aren’t good enough?
Nations League has a silver lining
The Nations League was devised to give meaning to more international games, since the quality and interest in friendlies was dropping at an alarming rate. In reality the obvious answer was to have less games but this is UEFA we are talking about so that was never going to happen. One interesting thing that I think is happening is the approach to games by the top tier and teams in tiers 2-3 in each match. For Leagues A and B, it’s roughly the top ten ranked teams vs the rest.
For the top tier teams, the games can still be seen a little more than a friendly. The will have that many chances to qualify for the Euros that it’s nearly impossible (unless you are Italy) to not be at the tournament. For the other teams, it’s a competitive game against a strong opposition that gives you a chance to really test out what your ceiling is. And the Nations League is more valuable to them as a route into tournaments. What you can end up with is a top-level team underperforming and thinking it doesn’t matter and the other team overperforming and, potentially, realising that it does.
In the last round of fixtures, Denmark beat France for the second time, Switzerland beat Spain, Austria spanked Croatia and Hungary continue to demolish anyone who dares to cross them. There seems to have been an increase in these top tier teams getting beaten, which may have knock-on effects at a tournament.
As Peter pointed out in the mailbox, Denmark are in France’s group for the World Cup. Beating a team twice is not a fluke. Beating them in a competitive game is not meaningless. Denmark can carry a level of confidence into that game that they may not have had without the Nations League. If we can get any good out of the Nations League, having a number of decent teams going into games with the likes of Germany, Spain, France etc. with a mentality of ‘We have beaten them before’, that could lead to more unpredictability and better tournaments.
Kev (That League C group with Luxembourg and the Faroe Islands is also a banger. You love to see it)
For whom the Bell plays
It’s incredible that someone like Gabby Agbonlahor gets paid to spew his phlegm. I understand that he has more of an insight into the mind of a professional footballer than the average man, but it certainly doesn’t seem like it. He says Bellingham would rather choose Liverpool over Real Madrid because of competition for places. Nonsense!
He very well may prefer Liverpool, but it’s certainly nothing to do with a fear of not breaking into Madrid’s midfield. Luka Modric is 37 and Kroos isn’t getting any younger. He has the chance to learn from two of the greatest midfielders of the last decade and potentially form the most terrifying triumvirate with Tchouameni and Camavinga.
I know sod all about what goes on inside Jude Bellingham’s head, but he turned down the clusterf*ck of Man United to join a club that is known to develop and give youth a chance. He must be a sensible enough fella. To suggest that he would opt for Liverpool purely as it seems easier to get into the first eleven makes me wonder how Agbonlahor ever made it as a professional at all!
To all of those who are known as ‘talent’ by your media owning employers – at some point you will not have your contract renewed. This will happen to you without fail – as sure as death and taxes. Now, you may have been very fortunate to have had a long and illustrious career ‘behind the mic’ or you may have managed just one shift on hospital radio. No matter what, your time will come. You’ll be invited out for a coffee or maybe in to the station director’s office and given the news.
Now here’s the thing – just because you’ve done a job for X number of years does not give you the right to have it for as long as you want. Broadcasters want to shake things up every now and then. Which is how you got your first job, someone took a punt on some new talent. That was you. Now it’s someone else’s turn.
So please don’t bang on about your previous employer being woke or pandering to the PC brigade, telling anyone who will listen you still ‘had good viewing figures’ etc I’m sure you did. You’ve had a good run, earned very good money for doing a job lots of people would have paid to have done. Be graceful and thankful for the time you’ve had.
Steve, Cirencester (LFC)
Living Wage virtue signalling ahoy
After the fragile right has spent the last few weeks in the spotlight virtue signalling with the passing of the Queen, it’s time to get back to what F365 does best and being virtue signalling left wing snowflakes. Wait, we can’t all be virtue signallers can we? I digress.
TRIGGER WARNING – following this will be a trigger warning. I know that some people get upset by trigger warning so I wanted to forewarn you.
TRIGGER WARNING – I am about to drop some politics in football bombs like 12 ger…. Maybe not…
The BBC has an article about the real living wage in premier league clubs. 12 premier league clubs are Living Wage accredited or have confirmed that they pay staff and sub-contractors Living Wage including City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle. Eight do not including United (legal minimum wage only), Spurs (don’t check their sub-contractors), Arsenal (don’t pay caterers, cleaners and stewards Living wage).
The new chancellor of the UK, who was selected by a person voted in by fewer people than that at an Aston Villa game, has decided that instead of collecting the tax income from the very rich he will instead put our country’s bills on a credit card in the UK’s name on the basis that if very rich people are taxed less they will spend more money and somehow everyone else will be richer too. Everyone else in the world thinks that this is a bad idea and the value of the pound has plummeted.
Premier league clubs are an example of a UK industry that has got significantly more money it than 20 years ago. And what we have is a scenario where football clubs who make 10s of millions of pounds a year or who spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year, and the everyone else in these clubs are paid the absolute bare minimum to meet a legal obligation or just enough for them to live. We can all be confident that if it wasn’t for the virtue signalling of football fans then the living wage as a concept wouldn’t have any traction with PL clubs. Another win for the morality of football fans.
Now, just being accredited as a living wage employer doesn’t tell us other things like how much above it the clubs pay, training, job security, sick pay, sudden game cancellation following the death of the Queen pay etc but I don’t believe that we should be applauding any football club for paying the people that make games happen the bare minimum to live whilst we have normalised £10m a year plus basic salary of players. Football, and other industries, have shown us that when you give rich companies and people more money, they just have more money.
Also, Liz Truss’s team dropped a few thousand of taxpayers’ money in the Norwich City gift shop. There’s only so many shirts, mugs and hilarious car stickers of someone weeing on an Ipswich Town shirt that you can buy!
Politic over. So err… yeah, Southgate is shit, but the best we have. Redknapp in is a stupid idea that fundamentally discredits the England manager as a role. Please stop wasting TAA’s time.
Alex, South London