Friday, November 23, 2007

Worst. England manager. Ever.

That’s not just my opinion – the statistics back it up. He has the worst record of anybody to have done the job. He’s dropped 13 points in 16 months’ worth of qualifiers, compared with Eriksson’s 11 dropped in five years. For about two days I’ve had ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ by Joni Mitchell stuck in my head, and it’s suddenly become spookily relevant. I don’t want to say I told you so, but… actually, I do. Many England fans took qualification for granted and failed to see just how much Sven was delivering. This is the all-English alternative. Ah, the pride.

It’s hard not to feel that Sven would’ve got the necessary result against Croatia, given that he did so in the final match of every qualifying campaign and group stage he oversaw. In fact, Eriksson wouldn’t have needed the astonishing lifeline McClaren got. Many England fans banged on about Sven’s ‘passionless’ nature on the sidelines: at least he looked like he was thinking about the game. Against Croatia we saw McClaren stood with his brolly looking for all the world like a man waiting for a bus.

To be fair, Sven’s final matches as manager were deeply unimpressive: the World Cup was a disappointment in terms of performance, although arguably not in terms of achievement. The quarter-finals are about as well as we usually do in these things, unless we’re on home soil. But McClaren has totally failed to eradicate that hangover, offering instead empty gestures and meaningless soundbites. Of course, we’ll have the debate about just how good the team actually is, and we should examine the problems behind the team, but Eriksson did so much more with the same group of players and, Beckham aside, they should be hitting their peak rather than heading into decline.

Though I hate McClaren, I wasn’t one of those who wanted England to lose just to prove myself right. However, if I may take a leaf out of the big ginger fuckwit’s book for a moment and Take The Positives, this may well not be a bad thing. I’d rather we lost out on getting to a Euros, sacked the coach now, and started sorting things out, than stumbled over the line, had a crappy tournament (don’t forget, the group stages are usually harder in the Euros than in the World Cup), ‘kept faith’ with a rubbish manager and got found out in World Cup qualifying. We need a better coach, the ‘golden generation’ need a wake-up call and that’s what we’re hopefully going to get.

We will hear more about the need for ‘pride and passion’. I for one am sick of all this God-for-Harry bollocks that constantly surrounds any debate about the underachievement of the England team. It’s not pride or passion we need, it’s basic competence (although admittedly a bit of hard work wouldn’t go amiss). That’s what delivered our best performances of McClaren’s reign, the wins over Israel and Russia that convinced many people, myself included, that the coach had screwed the wheels back onto a faltering campaign (more by accident than design, given that the best performers were those covering for injuries). We passed and kept the ball well, something which we suddenly seemed incapable of in the final couple of matches. Other teams – Croatia, for one – seem to find this the easiest thing in the world.

That’s where the emphasis should be, and I think we’re more likely to get it from a non-English coach. Obviously, as a Villa fan, I have a vested interest in them not picking Martin O’Neill, who would nevertheless do a great job, I think – and surely the FA won’t want him unless he’s sharpened up those all-important PowerPoint skills. Given that O’Neill apparently doesn’t want the job now, and neither do any of the other prospective candidates, Fabio Capello is already looking a great bet. He immediately declared his keen interest, which proves once and for all that he is indeed mental. However, he’s available, he’s had a lot of success, he favours a creative but cautious approach and he wasn’t afraid to drop superstars when he came in at Real Madrid. He sounds perfect.

Instead of looking for a yes-man, the FA might consider the benefits of his Mourinho-style outbursts in distracting media attention from whatever embarrassing crap they happen to be getting up to that week. Because they will, because the FA never bloody changes. It’s probably too much to hope they’ve learned enough humility to not piss off all the decent candidates this time.

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