27 March 2012
It has been seven weeks since Fabio Capello left his position as England manager. And to this day we are no nearer knowing who might take the reigns for the European Championships this summer and beyond. Stuart Pearce is in temporary charge but isn’t thought to be a long-term candidate for the job.
The media circus that surrounds the job, seem to give the indication that they want Harry Redknapp to take the job. But it is worth pointing out that the television pundits and newspaper editors do not speak for a nation of supporters, despite several of them trying to imply that this is the case. Redknapp’s Spurs team have struggled since the speculation began. This could have been impacted upon by the constant speculation surrounding Redknapp. But it is undoubtedly also due to a good Spurs team being hit by a couple of injuries and what could be argued as either a lack of squad depth, or Redknapp’s lack of ability to manage his resources and find the tactics to build on what had been a good Tottenham run. This may have swayed some people’s thinking and given some people food for thought, espeically at the FA where there is often a clamour for the flavour of the month – as seen at Chelsea whenever the managerial job is vacant.
One name that has been thrown into the ring this week is that of Glenn Hoddle. The man who was appointed England manager immediately after Euro ’96 and who was sacked for non-football related comments in an interview with The Times newspaper in January 1999.
Previous Reign Re-visited
Hoddle’s last England reign was a big success on the pitch. The qualification campaign for World Cup ’98 ended successfully with a heroic 0-0 draw in Rome to ensure England won the group and Italy had to qualify via the play-offs. Earlier in the campaign there were routine wins all round, confidently seeing off Poland, Georgia and Moldova twice each. The only defeat of the campaign came with a 1-0 reverse against Italy at Wembley. A game famously remembered for Matthew Le Tissier being handed a rare England start, only for his brother to leak the team news to a global audience hours before kick off. Gianfranco Zola hit the winner in that game for a very good Italy side, whilst England were missing regular goalkeeper David Seaman and Alan Shearer’s regular international partner Teddy Sheringham.
The World Cup itself, held in France, had it’s ups and downs. It started with a 2-0 win against Tunisia in sweltering heat. Next up came a 2-1 defeat to Romania, with a mistake from Graeme Le Saux allowing Dan Petrescu to score a last minute winner. Then came a match England had to win against Columbia. David Beckham and Michael Owen were handed their first starts of the tournament and Hoddle’s England won 2-0 to set up a second round match against Argentina. An entertaining match was played out in St. Etienne but the key moment in the game was David Beckham’s sending off in the 47th minute of the game. The score at the time, 2-2, was how it finished after 90 minutes and extra time. But being reduced to ten men with so much time left to play took its toll on England and reduced their attacking threat greatly. England then exited the competition after coming out second best in the penalty shoot-out that followed.
The thing that sets Hoddle apart from every other England manager in recent times is the system he used for the national team. England played a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs under Hoddle, and this helped the team keep possession of the ball with more bodies in the midfield area. Possession is much more important in international football and is something England have struggled with both before Hoddle and after, right up to the present moment in time. England were able to control more games and dictate the pace of games using this formation, taking advatage of the extra option that the third man in central midfield gave them. It didn’t hamper the attacking side of the game either, with wing-backs such as Graeme Le Saux, Gary Neville and later Darren Anderton all given licence to get forward and almost become wingers when the team attacked. There was a growing sense during the World Cup in France that England could have gone all the way to the final playing this way, hence the over-the-top backlash David Beckham recieved after the tournament for his part in the Argentina match.
Many England managers of the past have been good domestic level managers but haven’t had the ability to successfully lead an international team. The difference in style between the English league and the international scene is clear to see and many managers struggle to see this. Most are either too naive in thinking England can play as we do domestically and still win something, or don’t possess the managerial ability to cope with putting together a different tactical style for the international game. I believe Glenn Hoddle is the exact opposite to the usual England manager and is actually better suited to international football as opposed to domestic football. His views, philosophy on football and wish to play a continental style makes his brand of football better suited to managing an international team than it does in the up-and-at-them domestic game.
The suggestion of Hoddle returning as England manager has seen some people ridicule his chances and ruling him out without a moment’s thought. But the statistics point to Hoddle having a win ratio of 60.7 per cent. This is only bettered by World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsay and the under-appreciated Fabio Capello. Do the FA see him as a viable option? Only time will tell. But his international record and his on-the-pitch philosophies should make him one of the stronger candidates.