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The foreign experiment hasn’t failed, Mr Hansen

5 April 2011

Alan Hansen suggests Eriksson and Capello failed because they lacked the "English mentality"

With Fabio Capello looking likely to leave the England job after the 2012 European Championships, plenty have people have speculated as to who his successor might be.

Harry Redknapp is certainly the frontrunner, and in the Telegraph this week Alan Hansen gave his backing to the current Tottenham boss to take over because “he has probably taken Spurs as far as he can.”

Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but the rest of Hansen’s justification for Redknapp to take over is very odd.

The time has come for England to have an English manager again, though, because those who suggested that a foreign coach was the right way to go have been proved utterly wrong.

Success in football is rooted in managers getting the best out of their players by understanding their mentality and getting them to perform at their best.

In the past two World Cups, England failed to live up to expectations because neither Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2006 nor Capello in 2010 could get the best out of the players they had.

Neither Eriksson nor Capello truly understood the English mentality, but that is never going to be an issue with Harry.

It beggars belief that Hansen can suggest that people who advocated for foreign coaches have been proved “utterly wrong”. Take the last four England coaches: Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. They have managed England in the period 1999-2011, a period dominated by the so-called ‘golden generation’, operating with largely the same set of players.

Now let’s assess their results as England managers.

  • Kevin Keegan: win percentage of 38.9%. Achieved a group stage finish in Euro 2000.
  • Sven-Goran Eriksson: win percentage of 59.7%. Achieved three quarter final finishes in the 2002 World Cup, 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup.
  • Steve McClaren: win percentage of 50%. Failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
  • Fabio Capello: win percentage of 66.7%. Achieved a second round finish in the 2010 World Cup.

It appears Hansen is the one who is “utterly wrong.” Both foreign coaches have higher win percentages than their English counterparts, and both qualified and went further in all major tournaments. All of them lost important matches, not just Eriksson and Capello.

It’s incredibly disrespectful to claim that foreign coaches cannot learn the mentality of English players. Indeed, there’s an argument to suggest the English mentality needs changing. It hasn’t won anything for forty-five years! When Arsene Wenger arrived in England, he imposed better diets and erased the drinking culture. A season later, Arsenal were champions.

Equally, Fabio Capello banned mobile phones, enforced the team to eat together and encouraged a Mediterranean diet over ketchup and chips. This worked a dream before the World Cup, as England delivered eight straight wins in their qualification campaign, their best ever return.

Admittedly, Capello got it wrong during the tournament off the pitch, but that’s not to say he can’t learn. The same mistakes will not be repeated in Eastern Europe next summer.

But this isn’t a defence of Capello, nor an attack on Harry Redknapp’s credentials. You can’t argue that should Redknapp get the job, he will bring alternative qualities to Capello. I question whether these qualities are essential for success; neither Keegan nor McClaren could inspire their players.

We mustn’t appoint a manager simply because he is English. We must appoint the best qualified available person for the post, whether it’s Harry Redknapp or someone else.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    8 April 2011 11:43 am

    Its definitely not all down to the nationality of the coach, don’t think you are ever going to be able to decide whether foreign or English manager is the best. There is no doubt Capello is a better manager than McClaren but would Capello be better if he was English…

    • 8 April 2011 12:08 pm

      Well exactly, the nationality is irrelevant until FIFA impose some kind of rule on coaches. As for Capello being English – in the sense that he can relate to English footballers? Would certainly be a plus, though you wouldn’t want him to lose his other strengths as a coach (purely hypothetically, obviously).

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