A Real England Manager

By John Cartwright

The job of Manager to the England football team has been a ‘Poison Chalice’ to almost all of those who have taken on the role. Perhaps the problem stems from the title, England Manager, for isn’t it a Coach we should be seeking?  The job requires so much more than a personality, presently having a successful period in Management at club level. The role should include the control of English Football from junior to senior level with the appointee providing a self-designated playing method along with a re-design of the coaching and development infrastructure here.

Yes, a big job and an important appointment for the future of our game. The time for over-departmentalizing of football playing and football learning must end. How one plays should reflect in the way one practices. The route towards the England Coach’s playing vision must be clearly set out and determinedly followed. Like the Dutch and the Spanish as well as so many of our foreign opponents, we must embrace the need for planned, long-term progression and dispense with the ‘off the cuff’/ blind alleys’, approach we have tinkered with over the years.

From day one, our young players, 5/6 years old, must enter a development system that transports them carefully and intelligently through the ‘golden years of skill learning’ and, on exiting it, be prepared to play the game with effective style and understanding at senior levels. Our pretence that mediocrity is great must end and be replaced with an honest appreciation of class and skill. The route set from bottom to top of the game for our players must be the responsibility of the next England Coach. This appointment will show the true qualities or obvious weakness of those making the decision to select the right person for the job. I have serious doubts that the person who is finally to take over from Capello, will be selected to look at the bigger picture, his role will be dominated by the forthcoming  European Championship and followed by qualification for the 2014 World Cup: this will be a massive mistake!

I believe the sad loss of talent, time and money will continue unabated. As in the past, short-term success, if achieved, will propel the incumbent forward from game to game and long-term development will be left in the hands of those who have shown no ability in the past to improve the standards needed for the game here. Should the ‘hired gun’ begin to lose, the ‘built on sand edifice’ that represents our international football will collapse and then another ‘saviour’ will be appointed with the short-term objective of re-building the ‘crumbling castle’.

Our ‘amateurish’ approach and lack of foresight to produce a long-term plan for the game here is a national disgrace. Those at the head of football throughout the past 60 years have a lot to answer for; after all those years we have needed foreign coaches for our senior national teams and a large importation of foreign players to support our domestic game. Now, with everyone demanding an English appointment, it seems we only have one acceptable candidate for the job. Unfortunately, the appointment will be made to appease the Press and Public and it will make little significance to the future quality of our game.


14 thoughts on “A Real England Manager

  1. John

    You are correct that a playing style and ethos should be implemented throughout the game (in similar fashion to what T Mowbray initiated at WBA on a smaller scale) however wouldn’t his be far to big a remit for one individual?
    I also believe that this quantum leap forward would be beyond the outlook of many of the senior managers who might be considered for the role and certainly for most young upcoming managers.

    One candidate who springs to mind (Would never be considered at this time due to relative inexperience) would be Brendan Rodgers.

  2. Sounds like a good idea John, but what happens when the next manager comes in and has completely different ideas, just like the academy manager who never keeps a job long enough to make a difference?

    • Hi Dave. Rinus Michels and Johann Cruyff, established the present playing concept at Barcelona almost 30 years ago. During that time, no Manager has been allowed to de-rail that development process. As players progressed through the system some were taken on as coaching staff to use their expertise when they finished their playing careers. Pep. Guardiola, is a product of the system — a former Barcelona player and Spanish international — the system produced the qualified candidate for the top role. This is what we should do; a senior Coach should establish a long-term, suitable plan for the game here and then create ‘disciples’ to ‘preach the sermon’ and on the departure of the top man/woman, a suitable replacement from those having worked under him/her during their ‘reign’ would continue the work.
      i don’t think we will ever establish any such development method. We are and impatient nation and our football reflects that impatience. The lack of planning in football development and playing style combined with greed and a wasteful use of money, will determine our football future — along a pathway to nowhere most probably.

  3. Hi John,

    I always enjoy reading your articles as they make me reflect on my own coaching practice. I really respect your views and I intend on attending your courses as I believe your approach is the way forward.

    I have recently written a blog post on ‘Developing Intelligent Football Players’ – http://thinkingoutsidetheboxdotorg.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/developing-intelligent-football-players/ . It would be great to hear your views on this subject.

    Many Thanks,

    Lee Hodge.

  4. The first England Manager was Walter Winterbottom and he held the position from shortly after the Second World War until 1963. He wasn’t really a fully-operating manager because he did not have sole reponsibility for picking the team. This was done by a selection committe, of which, i think, he was a part. When Alf Ramsey took over the job in 1963 he did so on the condition that he, and he alone, picked the team.
    But Winterbottom combined his job of England Manager with also being the FA’s Director of Coaching and, as a keen observer of foreign coaching methods and tactics, he was able to influence thinking among coaches and enlightened players in this country. Indirectly, he therefore had some input into England’s World Cup victory of 1966.
    I think that the only other England Manager who sought to change the direction and thinking of English coaching was Ron Greenwood, during his years in charge of the England team from 1977 to 1982. He put together a ‘think-tank’ of coaches in charge of the England teams in various age groups, such as Terry Venables, Dave Sexton and John Cartwright. The idea was also that his successor should be drawn from that group, and so when he relinquished the post in 1982, his successor was Bobby Robson, who had previously been in charge of the England B Team. But, unfortunately,Ron Greenwood did not have the dual role of FA Director of Coaching and so his influence was not as wide as it could have been.
    So the examples of Walter winterbottom and Ron Greenwood prove the accuracy of John Cartwright’s argument, that the England Manager should also be the man to reorganise and restructure the whole network and content of the country’s coaching scheme. Bearing in mind that the bookies’ favourite for the job is Harry Redknapp, and he spent all his formative years under Ron Greenwood at West Ham United, then he could well be the best man for the job.
    However, it is doubtful whether he would want to take on this additional responsibility, and inconceivable that the FA would allow him to anyway.

  5. By his own, very recent, admission Harry isn’t the brightest! However, with Gareth Southgate ideally placed, surely the future cannot be worse than the past! I fully agree that the Barcelona system of a “bottom up” approach has to be better than a “top down” one. The 1st team manager cannot be allowed to dictate strategic direction. Most of them are not in post long enough! I doubt there will ever be another Fergie (he’s done OK hasn’t he). Club owners (and associations) should only appoint managers who buy into this approach – look at the numbers of players both Barcelona and Man United have either promoted to the 1st team or produced for other, slightly lesser, clubs. I believe that this has to be the way ahead.

  6. Some of the greatest players in football history could not even write their own name. Football ability and intelligence does not necessarily equate to academic intelligence., even when one ventures into the sphere of coaching/management, as the example of Harry Redknapp’s career so far has shown.
    Anyone who spent their formative years under the tutelage of Ron Greenwood, and was inspired accordingly, deserves consideration for the big jobs. However, the biggest job of all is for someone to restructure the country’s coaching/development system, and that need would be just as pressing even if England were to achieve success in a forthcoming major tournament, regardless of who is the England Manager.

    • It wasn’t my intention to try to belittle Harry, Steve. I’m sure that the influence of those coaches that you mention has played a massive part in the success (?) of Harry’s Spurs team but he has hardly been an unqualified success wherever he has gone. My worry is that we currently find ourselves in a similar situation as when Kevin Keegan took over. He too had an opportunity to study at the “feet of the master” under Shankley et al and had the added advantage of being one of the few English players to play abroad and be truly successful. We all know how that one ended up!
      Whether we like it or not the England team manager will never be given the responsibility for re-shaping the footballing landscape in this country – and rightly so in my opinion.

  7. John I couldn’t agree more with you.
    The English Game has been missing a strategy since 1966.
    Development of future talent needs a framework of coaching who share the fundamental belief in a system designed to meet that strategy.
    Someone needs to create the strategy in terms of a vision/blueprint – not with trophies as objectives but with players playing to a style that will compete in years to come.
    All that will happen if we chase trophies is more opportunities to interchange vegetables with manager’s faces.
    We don’t have a strategy, we haven’t had.
    We live in a media driven world where opinion is changed at warp speed.
    Coaching takes years.
    Coaching the right way takes even longer
    Each has to happen without bending to the whim of short term-ism.
    Such a vision/plan/implementation needs someone at the top to drive it & importantly to protect it.
    Not there today.
    It will take more than 10 years.
    Which means the tournament success will be in the World Cup AFTER Qatar 2022!
    Which means Euros of 2024 at the earliest
    Which means the players are 6 – 9 years old now.
    Already learning the wrong skills.
    So too late
    The FA are still building a centre of excellence – buildings and pitches
    Not building the development of a playing philosophy to teach.
    Spurs fans will be happy – as Harry knows it’s a poisoned chalice.
    Emotion and passion (of Mr Pearce) isn’t enough but will do for this season.
    Where’s the vision?
    Where’s the visionary?
    They don’t sit well in the political, people pleasers in the FA.
    But you already know that.

    • Steve very insightful and full of truisms.The FA is in institutionalised denial unfortunately.The big disappointment was I genuinely thought that Trevor Brooking with his football background would make a difference but after 9 years in post I really think he’s been totally ineffective!!

  8. I am astounded that people rate Rednapp. Last year Gary Linekar did a TV prog entitled “Can England win the next World Cup”. Harry had the front to say ( paraphrased)……I really thought we could go to South Africa and win it with the players we ve got”……….are you freaking sure Harry…please don’t tell me you couldn’t see that Spain with 5 players in the top 12 in the world could NOT win. If I as a puny little level 3 coach could see the blindingly obvious hjow come Harry Rednapp can’t? England manager???and now lets talk about Stuart Pearce who says after the U21 game against Spain….quote…if we had had as much possesion as them we’d have scored 5 goals……..freaking INANE…..my 13 year old son was in fits of laughter. Pearce and Rednapp are most definitely part of the problem …..we are still talking about David Beckham as some sort of legend…..England with Beckham never got to a semi!!!!talk about denial.

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