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England Need A Manager, But They Need A Plan Even More

The potential is there to make the England national team job an unheralded success, just not right now.

Euro 2016 outlined emphatically how a mixture of mental fragility and poor coaching results in outlandish failure, to the point of embarrassment and humiliation on a mass scale.

Too often the discussion revolves around potential that should be realized rather than world-class performances that actually are on show at major tournaments.

Much like Spain in the 1990s, the talent at the disposal of any incoming manager should be an appealing prospect. 

But that is where comparisons end with Spain, as the two-time European champions and 2010 World Cup winners accessed the greatest generation in their history courtesy of a Barcelona/Real Madrid spine to catapult them to consecutive trophies. 

With Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney, finding the net should not be an issue.

Versatile and intelligent midfielders are there as well, from Jack Wilshere to Dele Alli and Eric Dier, a previous dearth of players who can put their foot on the ball and make smart decisions should be a thing of the past.

Following a host of failures from domestic (Glenn Hoddle, Steve McClaren, Roy Hodgson) and overseas coaches (Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson), England is firmly back to square one.

Elimination at the hands of Iceland made their 1950 World Cup defeat to the USA appear respectable, given the paucity of professional players and any notable history to speak of.

The aftermath was predictably scathing and macabre, leaving no room for excuses or explanations that could make sense of it all.

Tune into any English football program talking about the second exit of Britain from Europe in a week and a sense of déjà vu will ensue. 

Post-disaster analysis centers around a lack of passion, a concise coaching plan, grassroots coaching, no players outside of the Premier League, etc.

Each point has truth and merit, yet the English FA leap from one bureaucratic review to the next without ever addressing the problems at hand.

The establishment of St George’s Park National Football Centre, an initiative developed in 2012 to arrest the slide of underwhelming player development pathways, may not pay dividends for decades to come.

If ever.

Names linked to the England job are a concern.

From Arsene Wenger to Sam Allardyce, Guus Hiddink to Harry Redknapp, the management and coaching styles vary wildly from one man to the next.

The uncomfortable question the FA must ask itself is: what football does the national team want to play?

Depending on which coach is in talks to take the vacancy, England is a possession side, counter-attack outfit, 4-4-2 purists or a combination. 

The greatest criticism consistent among pundits across the BBC, ITV and Sky Sports was the void of a team character, following a plan that matched the talents and attributes of the players in the squad.

At 2-1 down to Iceland, Hodgson deployed Marcus Rashford, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney all at the same time, hoping that a goal would be found from somewhere.

That second half performance was the embodiment of chaos, making it obvious how out of depth Hodgson was in his role and how ill equipped the players were at solving problems for themselves on the field of play.

This environment kills careers; any quick search of England managers following their national post tells as much.

Convincing the best coaching talent to abandon their positions at club level will prove next to impossible, with only Wenger looking likely with one year remaining on his Arsenal contract.

As the domestic competition hosts the best talent in a football dugout than anywhere else in the world, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte and now Pep Guardiola, the divide between Premier League riches and national team performance is at its widest gap.

The EPL now works as the English FA’s greatest commercial asset, but its biggest hindrance to prosperity.

In the wake of a new giant television deal, clubs are overflowing with war chests of cash to solve any deficiencies within a roster.

Clubs in La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 find bargains in the transfer market, promote youth team players and use innovative coaching tactics to gain an edge. 

Contrast this to a modest team like Crystal Palace in England who bid £30 million to Liverpool for Christian Benteke and it’s any wonder why development pathways are halted for immediate gains.

Whereas an incoming England manager would be able to pick from a Connor Wickham or Patrick Bamford playing regular first-team football at the Eagles, now the options are minimized and the team suffers from lack of competition and depth.

Until restrictions are placed on the financial behemoth that is the English Premier League before coming to the table on a clear team identity and structure to work with, any of the potential coaches taking the reigns are on a hiding to nothing.

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