England’s next manager needs to build a legacy. A legacy transcends the time in which he is in charge and leaves an impression on the team that will outlast him. The way you do this, is through youth development.
Start with the senior team, bring in young players. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy, especially if you’re not winning. You pick what you can for Euro 2012, there isn’t enough time to build a team for that, but you’ve got to keep one eye on the World Cup in Brazil two years later.
But you can’t simply build a team for Brazil, as you’ve got to qualify, which is hard, so playing kids is a big risk. So what can you do? Well you can plan for Russia in 2018. You can put in place a style, a system, instil a belief in a tactical method that runs through all England sides from youth level right to the top and stick by this. Build it so intrinsically into the philosophy of the team that it becomes almost impossible to remove.
In essence the next manager must restore the identity of the England team. The best teams always have a clearly defined style, Spain’s tiki-taka, Germany’s counter-attack, Italy’s defence, Brazil’s samba flair. Spain’s style was inspired by Johan Cruyff at Barcelona, Germany’s built by Jurgen Klinsmann, it’s certainly possible to do. Traditionally English traits have been bravery, commitment and a quick tempo. These have been replaced with disillusionment and a lack of technique and organisation.
The English game is quick, so the England team should play that way; yes it’s hard in the heat of a major finals after a long season (without a winter break) so you have to find a way to make it work. You pick the players who can do the job, players who are super fit, who can run all day and who would die for the cause and never let their country down.
Or better yet, you look at our youth teams and say “lets learn to pass the ball” we can keep our tempo, have can keep our bravery and our heart and our desire which is apparently what makes us English and we can combine that with technical ability. It’s not a choice, an either or, you can have both. So much of football now is about keeping possession of the ball, so let’s teach players this.
If the England manager came out and said, “I want players who can pass the ball, who are comfortable in possession and have great technical ability. If you happen to be a big athlete, that’s a bonus” it would be nice to hear. I want more Jack Wilshere’s and less Gareth Barry’s.
When it comes to building things, the Germans usually do it best and their national football team is no exception. Built from the ground up, from youth all the way to the senior side they are an example of having a clear idea about the way they want to play. England need that, they need a manager with a tactical identity and the balls and clout to implement it. They need help from the FA, from top English clubs, from fans and the media by not calling for the manager’s head after one bad performance in a friendly.
If things don’t change within the game, it doesn’t matter who we appoint, they will continue to face the same challenges as previous managers and they will continue to struggle with the same old problems, so let’s move the goal posts. Spain didn’t always play pretty passing football, it took time for them to change, maybe ten years. Things like that don’t happen overnight, you have to teach players to have faith in their technical ability and to pass the ball. You need a plan and the resolve to stick with it, you need to be brave. Bravery, that’s an English trait isn’t it?