So, another tournament, another heartbreak for England. I posted a couple of weeks back asking for fans to get behind their players because they were showing signs of improvement, and were playing well.
I’m not going to apologise for that statement, and I stand by it, but I do, as a football fan, have to acknowledge that this tournament simply hasn’t been good enough. I said to my wife before the game today that I thought England would struggle against Iceland as they are yet another defensive side, but I must admit when Wayne Rooney converted that early penalty I thought maybe things would be OK – I certainly didn’t expect those plucky underdogs to pop up and snatch two goals. Well played Iceland, frankly, on the night you deserved it and the better team won.
Fast forward a couple of hours, and England are out – arguably their most worrying tournament exit in recent memory, their campaign ending with such an impact that calling it a whimper would be an insult to an actual whimper. Out of Europe twice in one week. (thanks to Graeme Hunter for that one)
Now we face the journey of finding the next man to take the reins and try to finally get the most out of one of the most promising generations to come along for some considerable time. Now, I know there will probably be some scorn poured all over that statement too, but I genuinely believe it. I think Sterling is still to peak, and that won’t happen until he gets his confidence back. Rashford looks bright, and Harry Kane looks likely to be the man to lead the England forward line long into the future.
Roy Hodgson resigned almost immediately after the 2-1 defeat, with a statement written either with the most frightening of efficiency or, even more worrying, a pre-prepared statement written well ahead of the final whistle.
Hodgson is a man I admire – I like the guy. But therein lies the problem – I like the man. I have not been sold on him as England manager since he arrived, as I was rather vociferously campaigning for Harry Redknapp. Six years down the line, here we are again – who is the man to lead this young pride (ironic?) of lions into Russia and beyond?
Gareth Southgate has been touted as the early favourite, and with good reason. He’s spent years working in the England setup and presently runs things at Under-21 level, so he’s arguably the ideal candidate at a pretty nifty time for the job to come along. One does have to wonder if Mr Hodgson had this in the back of his mind when deciding his own fate, though that may admittedly be a bit of a stretch.
Personally though, I think Southgate would do well to work as assistant to the new head honcho, the new face around which the nation shapes their footballing aspirations and fantasies. Of course, Harry is still around and may talk to the FA if approached, but I think it may be time to change tack – Harry is one of my favourite managers personally, and I honestly feel he is one of the finest English managers never to get the England job. However, I believe that ship has sailed, and appointing him now COULD be seen as admitting it should have happened all those years ago.
What if I told you there is a manager out there, a free agent with no known bindings to a club, who is proven, experienced right at the top of club football and is familiar with the English game? A man who also has experience of management at international level, but has ample experience playing the game at the top level as well? Interested?
Well, there’s an elephant in the room around him that may prove problematic for some. He’s not English.
Laurent Blanc departed his position as manager of Paris Saint-Germain earlier the same day as Hodgson himself ended his England reign, with his exit being described by chairman as an action to “open a new chapter” at the French giants.
Blanc won back to back domestic quadruples in his three years at PSG, winning the league title in each campaign. OK, that feat seams a little less impressive than if he’d, say, won the Premier League with Leicester, but managing a club like PSG what else would you want from him?
He’s a cultured guy with experience right across the board, playing and managing at the top of the game right across Europe. OK, he isn’t English, and our previous forays into the foreign manager’s market didn’t exactly go spectacularly with Sven and Fabio both retaining something of a cloud around their names on these shores.
Capello was 61 when he arrived in the hotseat, while Sven was 53. In Sven’s case, it’s not a great deal older than Blanc’s 50 years at present, but that three years can easily encompass an extra international tournament. I know it feels like we’ve been saying it for years, but Russia could then be a testing ground. We’d expect results and performances of course, but one tournament a bad coach doesn’t make – he’d have time to see what his players can do at the highest level and amend any mistakes in plenty of time before the first truly multi-national Euros in 2020.
He also has a track record of working with, and developing younger players, bringing the likes of Jean-Kevin Augustin, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Presnel Kimpembe and Hervin Ongenda through the youth system.
So why not? Let’s give a Frenchman a chance where a Swede, an Italian and numerous Englishmen fell short. That is assuming he’d even consider taking the job in the first place of course, which isn’t a given – probably even a huge stretch. Moving that consideration aside, I think he’d be a fantastic fit.
There is a winning formula for the Three Lions out there somewhere. Let’s just see what happens.
What are your thoughts? Would Blanc tick your boxes? Would Southgate be the man you want? Or would you want the FA to go for someone like Eddie Howe, and see what he can do? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter @Jay_McLean.