Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’

9 02 2012

‘I’m the most disorganised person in the world. I can’t work a computer, don’t know how to email. Never sent a fax or even a text message.’  

‘I’ve never wrote a letter in my life. I couldn’t write a letter.’

‘I write like a two-year-old and I can’t spell. You talk to anybody at the football club. I don’t write.’

‘I couldn’t even fill a team sheet in.’

‘I pay a fortune to my accountant to look after me. He pays my bills. He runs my life.’

Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur FC manager)

It sounds like ‘Arry Redknapp is the perfect candidate for the vacant England manager’s job then – except he would have to sign his contract with a cross!

It seems ironic that the laconic Italian, Fabio Capello, was frequently criticised for his apparent lack of English, when his would be successor admits, in court, to having the literacy skills, in his mother tongue, of a two-year old – and apparently no numeracy at all. What a great example to the young people of Britain!      

I’m disappointed that Capello, a man of obvious integrity, has felt the need to step down from the position of England manager. I think he got it wrong with regard to the John Terry captaincy issue but I admire him for sticking to his principles and walking away from the FA.

It is a pity because I genuinely think that England, under Capello, would have performed well at this summer’s Euro 2012 tournament. I think he might have gone out on a high – but now we’ll never know.  

Capello’s achievements, as England coach, have been far too readily dismissed.

His record reads P 42 – W 28 – D 8 – L 6 (a 66.67% win record). Yet he will forever be branded a failure because of an inept 2010 World Cup campaign and, more specifically, a 4-1 quarter-final defeat against, the old enemy, Germany.

To put Fabio’s record in context:

  •           Sainted Sir Alf Ramsey, taciturn, with the look of a banker, generally accepted as England’s most successful manager – due to the 1966 World Cup win –   had a 61.1% win record.
  •           Sir Bobby Robson, affable, forgetful and prone to verbal gaffes, clocked up a mediocre 49.47% of wins.
  •          ‘El Tel’ Venables, celebrated for his blend of the best of British and continental styles, won a surprisingly low 47.83% of games.
  •           Glenn Hoddle, and faith healer Eileen Drewery, achieved an impressive 60.67% success rate, before he crucified himself by publicising his controversial religious beliefs.
  •          ‘Sven’ from ‘Sveden’, Capello’s philandering predecessor, might have scored top marks with Ulrika and Nancy, but could only rack up a 59.7% win record with England’s  ‘golden generation’.

In terms of wins, nobody has a better record than Capello. He instilled discipline and order into a previously lax England camp, ignored celebrity status, refused to court the media, developed a style of play that masked technical limitations and played to the strengths of English game, selected players in form, and gave youthful talent a chance. Not a bad legacy.

But Fabio is already yesterday’s news. For most it’s a case of good riddance, ‘Shuddupa yer face,’ and cry, ‘God for ‘Arry, England and Saint George!’ 

‘Arry the ‘Otspur, East End born and bred (but a long time resident of millionaire’s row in Poole) cleared of tax evasion charges, just 24 hours ago, is now apparently heir apparent. It could have been a very different story!   

In typically xenophobic style there has been mounting pressure on the FA to appoint an English manager next time around, so even if José Mourinho, with the best CV in Europe, wants to make an emotional return to English football, ‘the chosen one’ can forget it – he’s a foreigner (but I guess he could probably write a better letter of application than ‘Arry!)

The FA has stated it has a preference for an English, or perhaps a British, manager – but they want the best manager.  

That seems to be thinly disguised code for, ‘It’s ‘Arry Redknapp  or Martin O’Neil.’

So let’s look at the two most likely candidates:

Charming as he might be, what has ‘Arry actually achieved at the top-level?

  •          Seven years at West Ham, where he just about kept them afloat in the top league, with a 37% win record
  •          Relegation for Southampton, ending their 27 year spell in the top flight in a single disastrous season, with a dismal 26.53% win record
  •          FA Cup glory (his one and only trophy) during a  second spell at ‘Pompey’, off the back of an outlandish spending spree which has ultimately left the club close to bankruptcy.
  •          The only consistent success he has enjoyed has been in the last three seasons, at Spurs, where he has an impressive 50.56% win rate.   

Spurs do play easy on the eye football and are close to being genuine Premier League title contenders – but once again ‘Arry has not been short of spending power. 

In stark contrast, Martin O’Neil has succeeded at every club he’s managed, usually on limited financial resources and by making the most of predominantly British talent:

  •           At Cinderella club Leicester City he gained promotion followed by 2 League Cup wins and an overall 38.12 % win record.
  •           At Celtic (OK Scottish but huge expectations) he collected 3 league titles, 3 domestic cups, 1 league cup and made a European final, with a 75.53% win rate.
  •           Aston Villa were floundering when he took over. By the time he walked out, on a matter of principle, he had a 42.11 win % and had nurtured a crop of young English talent.      
  •           As soon as he walked through the door at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the Martin O’Neil effect kicked in. 13 games later, with 69.23% won, he has lifted them out of the bottom three  to 8th.

Martin O’Neil would never claim to be a tactical genius. His teams play a simple but effective style of football, not a million miles from that he grew up with, as a European Cup winner, at Nottingham Forest. His magic touch lies in man management, building a team ethic that enables all players to achieve the best they can – in particular turning journeyman players into good or very good ones.  

He might be at a slight disadvantage though. Heaven forbid he’s Irish, can read and write (being a former student of Queen’s University, Belfast) has opinions, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and speaks his mind, rather like his Nottingham Forest mentor, ‘Old Big ‘Ead’ himself.         

Od course I’m biased, but I genuinely believe that a 59-year-old Martin O’Neil (always assuming he is interested) would be a much safer bet than 64-year-old ‘Arry.

Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce, England Under 21 and British Olympic Team coach has been given the caretaker manager job, for the forthcoming friendly against the Netherlands. I’m thrilled for him. The, ‘Tricky Tree’, legend will be bursting with pride.

He’s not the long-term solution but would make an excellent assistant to Martin O’Neil. Perhaps not surprisingly, that would be my England dream team – but then I’m in a minority. 

I also worry that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were quick to Tweet in support of ‘Arry’s candidature. Why should that be? Do they envisage a cosy relationship with the cheeky chappy and a return to the laissez faire days of Sven. England players should keep their opinions to themselves as they will need to build a working relationship with whoever is appointed. But I suspect they will get who they wish for. If ‘Arry wants the job it’s a done deal – and good luck to him. 







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