Once again and unsurprising to most, England has failed to advance deep into a tournament after their second round exit in the just concluded Euros. The same problems have resurfaced, an England team playing well in qualifiers and friendlies but choking in the real test.
A team bereft of ideas fitting square pegs into round holes. This has been a perennial England problem since 1996 Euros they hosted where they advanced to the semis only to be beaten by Germany on penalties. That England team, much like this current iteration, went into the tournament rebuilding. They failed to make the 1994 World Cup and got a very good manager in Terry ‘El Tel’ Venables to oversee the overhaul. Having had a very good two year run with the team, the FA decided to sack him for Glenn Hoddle due to off the field incidents. After having a good two plus years as England manager, albeit being eliminated from the 1998 World Cup on penalties against Argentina, Hoddle had a 60% win rate. He played a continental brand of football and even got Darren Anderton and David Beckham on the field together in games. Yet he got sacked in 1999 because of politics, both of the football and Tony Blair variety, simply based on the fact he had weird beliefs (in the supernatural).
Since then, England’s long suffering fans have gone through the wringer with a plethora of unimaginative managers, namely Sven-Göran Eriksson, the first foreign manager, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson, and now Samuel Allardyce. With a young squad that is seeking to play more attractively, he is not the man to unlock their potential, as Hodgson wasn’t either. One would imagine his tenure would not exceed the two years on his contract given this reality which means England would need a new coach after the World Cup (if they qualify). Having sacked two good progressive managers in the late 90s one may question where England will get another such manager. Much is being made of Gareth Southgate and the good job he’s doing with the U21s. Last summer they got booted out first round in their age-group Euros. This summer they were Toulon winners; so that’s major progress. But sitting not so much under the radar and is flying up the charts is a younger and more progressive manager in his 30s called Eddie Howe!
Spending most of his time at his beloved Bournemouth as both player and a manager, Howe got his first taste of management at the age of 29 as a player coach. Having had an injury ravaged career, the former defender took to management instantly. After two years in the fourth tier of English football, Howe had Bournemouth promoted to League One in 2010. After doing a stint with Burnley, he left for Bournemouth again on October 2012 and had them promoted via the playoffs at the end of the season. Within two seasons, he had them promoted to the Premier League in 2015. A meteoric rise for a young coach, he even won Football League manager of the decade from 2005 to 2015. Within his first season in the top flight, he had Bournemouth surviving relatively comfortably, picking up huge scalps such as Manchester United and Chelsea along the way. He’s now seen as a potential replacement at Arsenal for Arsène Wenger in the not so distant future. Over the last few years it has always been the elite list of managers such as José Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and Carlo Ancelotti that have been moving from one big club to another. Within the next five years Eddie could be added to this short list of such managers given his current trajectory. Much is made of the fact that footballer of Jack Wilshere’s calibre would choose Bournemouth over Roma for a loan move. He pointed out that the style of play is a reason he chose them; but is that really all?
If he continues to rise as most fans and pundits expect him to, he could be the perfect manager for an England team that would hopefully be seeking to play a more attacking and creative brand of football. Given what now exists in the senior team, the youngest squad at Euro 2016, and the current U21 team, that’s not a far-fetched reality. He could be the perfect manager to unlock their potential and make them into contenders on the global stage, once the mercurial English FA resist the urge to sack managers that actually play good football. Maybe it would be wise to give him the reins after 2018 World Cup to develop a legacy with the national team before a big club move.