NA­TION­AL­ISM SHOULD BE FA KEY

An English­man as Three-Lions boss is not a bonus, it’s a ne­ces­sity

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports - MARTIN SA­MUEL From the Heart of the Mat­ter

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.

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