NATIONALISM SHOULD BE FA KEY
An Englishman as Three-Lions boss is not a bonus, it’s a necessity
Martin Glenn famously said he wasn’t a football expert. One would hope, however, as chief executive of the Football Association he would at least know the point of the international game. But apparently not. In the aftermath of the latest farce to befall his organisation, Glenn raised the possibility of appointing a foreign manager.
“I don’t think you have to be wedded to the fact the England manager has to be English,” he said. “That narrows the field too much and we want the best person for the job. Being English is a benefit — a bonus.”
Is he serious? A benefit? A bonus? Some trivial plus point, like a cheap buy-out clause, easy availability, or the willingness to embrace whatever imported fad is dominating FA thinking at St George’s Park this time?
Glenn may be no heavyweight, but he should be able to grasp this. An English England manager isn’t a bonus. It’s the point of international sport. The best of ours against the best of theirs. Take that away and the England team is barely worth following. Remove nationalism and what is there? Englishness is England’s unique selling point. In its absence, England may as well be another club team. And not a very good one.
The most disappointing aspect of Sam Allardyce’s 67-day reign was not even his desperation to earn on the side of his £3million (Sh393.1m) contract; it was the shameless way he sought to exploit the FA’s new-ringer recruitment arm. A department set up to prey on lax nationality rules to poach young foreign players. Allardyce would have picked Steven Nzonzi in his first England squad if he could.
It is this betrayal of the principles of international sport that leads Glenn to consider Englishness a mere benefit for the England manager, not a basic tenet of the job. He says it because it allows him some wriggle room to approach Arsene Wenger — the Holy Grail appointment for the FA for over a decade now. And Wenger is an interesting case. He has worked 20 years as a manager in England, compared to just 10 in France.
He clearly has an affinity for England, has contributed immensely to its football culture and could be considered an honorary Englishman. Except ask how he would feel if France appointed a Spaniard to coach the national team and you will discover his true feelings. Fabio Capello worked as England’s manager while knowing there was no chance of this movement of labour being reciprocated; indeed, as an Italian coach, he would be insulted if it were.
As club football grows stronger, and its rewards greater, the desire for a stellar national manager is increasingly fanciful anyway. The current coach of Spain, Julen Lopetegui, has mainly worked with age teams for the federation, plus Rayo Vallecano, and recently spent two dismal years with Porto, where he is best remembered for losing 6-1 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Giampiero Ventura, manager of Italy, is the journeyman’s journeyman with a history of 18 club jobs and three titles, all in either Serie “C” or “D”, the last of which came with Lecce in 1996.
Yet England, proud conquerors of 10man Slovakia in the fifth minute of injury time last month, are too grand for an English manager, and wish instead for the freedom to search the continents.
Ralf Rangnick, for instance, the current director of sports at RB Leipzig, who always seems to get a job interview when Dan Ashworth is around. In the old days that gave him a shout at West Brom.
Now, he could manage England. Rangnick has won impressive promotions with clubs such as Leipzig, Hannover and Hoffenheim, but no trophies of great significance.
In its chequered nature, his record is not greatly different to, say, Alan Pardew. Some good promotions: Reading, West Ham. The odd final: Crystal Palace, West Ham. Yet while we know every failing, misstep, or daft dance move Pardew has made, Rangnick is a mystery. He rejected Jamie Vardy for being too old at Leipzig, mind you, so he’s not infallible.