Thursday, July 25, 2024

Two Good, Two Bad: England managers

Today’s installment of Two Good, Two Bad will see me take a look at the England National team and the coaches to take charge of the team.

Two Good, Two Bad – How does it work?

The premise of Two Good, Two Bad will see the author, namely me, pick a subject such as seasons, moments, players or managers.

Then, I’ll select either my team (Newcastle United), the Premier League or even England. With those guidelines, I’ll give you the two best and two worst particular examples of the subject matter from over the course of my lifetime/fandom.

Today, as mentioned at the top, I’m continuing with England managers – but given that I was born in 1998, they only count if they were manager after than AND I can remember them.

The Worst

Steve McClaren

Honestly this was probably the easiest decision I’ll ever make in my lifetime and given that I’m a Newcastle fan, you can bet your bottom dollar this won’t be the last time Steve McClaren makes it into the ‘worst’ section…

To be perfectly honest, things weren’t great for McClaren with England from the moment he was appointed. After Sven Goran Eriksson had announced his impeding departure, McClaren was shortlisted alongside a bunch of other top managers.

Top of the list was Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was offered the job first but rejected it on the premise that the role would mean extra intrusion into his private life. McClaren was next on the list – thus earning him the nickname “Second Choice Steve” – one of a number of nicknames the England role would bring him…

McClaren had the role between 2006-07 wherein he oversaw the qualifying campaign for Euro 2008. England had started well, but then went on a run of five games wherein they scored just ONE goal and slipped to fourth in the qualifying group.

It all came down to the final game against Croatia at a rain soaked Wembley Stadium. They needed only to avoid defeat and they would qualify as the second placed team. Of course, England would lose the game 3-2 and fail to qualify for the tournament.

During the game, Steve McClaren stood on the sidelines holding an umbrella – earning him another flattering nickname – “The Wolly with the Brolly”. It was the first time England had failed to qualify for the European Championships in 24 years and as such, McClaren was hastily removed from his post the next day.

That brought an end to the worst spell of my life as an England fan, thankfully. He would be replaced by Italian manager Fabio Capello.

Roy Hodgson

While I do actually like Roy Hodgson, the England team under his stewardship was a mess. He took charge of three tournaments as the England boss, all three of which left a severely bitter taste in the mouth.

The European Championships in 2012 was his first tournament and the team had been enjoying a decent campaign having topped their group with seven points. The quarter final pitted England against Italy, and our old nemesis reared its head – penalty shootouts.

England were dumped out by the eventual tournament runners up on penalties, continuing a horrific spell with England and penalty shootouts. The next tournament was the 2014 World Cup. One thing I can say for Hodgson that separates him from McClaren is that he had qualifying stages spot on.

As for the tournaments themselves, well, the World Cup in 2014 was nothing short of a disaster. England finished bottom of their group, picking up just a solitary point in the group stages – courtesy of a draw with surprise group winners Costa Rica.

That led to obvious widespread anger in England and calls for Hodgson to lose his job began to circulate. The FA decided instead to keep their faith in the old-timer, but the next tournament may have made them regret that decision.

Next up was the 2016 European Championships in France. After a fun qualifying stage and a group stage that saw us just about scrape through in second place having beaten Wales, England were knocked out in the round of 16 in an expanded European Championships.

The opponents were Iceland, the performance was dismal, and England were dumped out of the competition with a 2-1 loss which resulted in the sacking of Roy Hodgson as England boss.

He was replaced by former England defender and then under 21 boss Gareth Southgate, which leads me nicely into the next section…

The Best

Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate’s tenure as England manager has been pretty great so far in all truth. When he was announced as the new boss, most people, myself included, scoffed at the decision and warned things would only get worse.

However, Southgate proved me wrong pretty quickly. He began to bring through the next generation of England stars and quite soon, the future was starting to look bright – for once.

The only major tournament of his stewardship so far saw him lead England to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It was a brilliant summer, with long days in the sun and in beer gardens watching our team nearly go all the way.

In the end, England ran out of steam at the semi-final stage. However, the campaign leading up to that was thoroughly enjoyable as England beat the likes of Sweden and Panama. We even brought an end to our long-standing issue with penalty shootouts, beating Colombia in a shootout thanks to heroics from Jordan Pickford.

Following the tournament, England took part in the inaugural UEFA Nations League – topping their mini-league to reach the finals of the tournament. Eventually, they would finish third in the Nations League but once more, England’s young team gave us all hope for the future.

Euro 2020, which is now set to be Euro 2021 due to the bloody COVID-19 crisis, is a big test of Southgate’s boys and will show us just how far they’ve come since the World Cup. I personally can’t wait for next summer.

Sven Goran Eriksson

Honestly this second selection was tough. Sven was initially in my bad column but through sheer lack of other options, he’s made it into the best.

I’ve always been a big fan of Sven but the truth is that he drastically underachieved given the team he had at his disposal. Dubbed the ‘Golden Generation’, Sven’s England team included some all time greats, but failed to make their mark in tournaments.

Sven took charge of three international tournaments from 2002-2006, including two world cups as well as the 2004 European Championships. In all three tournaments, England were knocked out at the quarter final.

It’s quite remarkable that we never made it any further given the legendary names in those teams. Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole to name but a few…

When you have a team of that quality and fail to do anything with them, there’s only one place for the buck to stop – right at the managers door. One thing that always sticks out in my mind was Sven playing Scholes on the left wing… absolutely criminal.

Still, at least he managed to actually qualify for all three tournaments and make it past the group stage in each of them. Those two things alone put him ahead of those who followed in his footsteps.

The making of an international manager is how they do in tournaments and Sven, although he should have done better given the team he had, has a better record in tournament football than most of the recent England managers.

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