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The national job: the only way is English?

11 January 2012

Harry Redknapp leads a line of English candidates for the national job (Image: Flickr/curiouslypersistent)

By early July, after the tears from another limp summer tournament failure are wiped away, the England national team will welcome in a ‘new era’. Gone will be the bumbling Capello, a man who could neither motivate nor associate with his players, and in comes the lionhearted Englishman, who values full-bloodedness over false nines.

As far as predicting public and media perception, this imagery is hardly far-fetched. It does appear that Harry Redknapp will be appointed as England manager, or at the very least a ‘home-grown’ coach in the shape of Roy Hodgson or Alan Pardew.

I have no problem with an Englishman being given the job. I have no problem with any manager from any nationality being given the job. I only have a problem if better-qualified candidates for the job are being overlooked for reasons that are at best flimsy, at worst totally unsubstantiated.

David Beckham and Harry Redknapp have given their backing for an Englishman to replace Capello, voicing the lines “every Englishman would want an English manager” and “any Englishman would want to manage their country.”

There are echoes of 2006, when Luis Felipe Scolari’s near-appointment to the national job was met with some disapproving reactions. The presumption was, as it is to an extent now, that an Englishman was best-qualified for the job given their knowledge of the domestic game and its players.

Sports Illustrated’s Ben Lyttleton sums up the fluctuating trend of England’s managerial appointments in the last 13 years:

There has been a pattern to England coaches appointed by its FA since Glenn Hoddle left his job as coach in 1999. After Hoddle, who was seen as cold toward his players, came the friendly Kevin Keegan, who made up in man-management what he lacked in tactical nous; then Sven-Goran Eriksson, its first foreign coach, and seen as a tactical genius (how wrong that was); then Steve McClaren, English and young; and finally Capello, foreign, proven and a disciplinarian.

Lyttleton therefore predicts the appointment of “an English coach who is nothing like Fabio Capello.”

The argument that national teams should have home-grown managers by regulation is one I support, but equally it is a loophole that should be exploited whilst it exists. Looking at the records of England managers since 1996, it seems strange that there would be such distrust of foreign leadership, and at the same time such a wave of support for an English coach.

I use the Elo ratings for a consistent measure of England’s results. The trends are relatively clear; there was a decline from 1997 until the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson, who guided England up towards the top of world football. Steven McClaren then took England backwards, whilst England’s erratic rating under Fabio Capello is because of the contrast in qualifying and tournament records (though I have my reasons why this is the case).

Simplistically, recent English managers have failed to improve England, whilst the two foreign managers appear to have done a comparatively better job. This is supported somewhat by win percentages.

Since the appointment of Glenn Hoddle, there is limited evidence to suggest foreign managers have a better win percentage record than English managers. England’s average Elo rating under foreign leadership is significantly higher than under home-grown coaches. This may be in small part due to the natural development of players, particularly under Eriksson, along with other external factors that have changed the English game.

Looking at Keegan’s reign onwards, the difference between the two groups becomes significant:

Of course, the major problem is that there haven’t been enough foreign and English managers in recent years to validate the idea that foreign managers are ‘better’ than English managers. The data merely tells us foreign managers have had a significantly better record.

That said, there is evidence to suggest that appointing (or rejecting) a manager on the grounds of his nationality would be misguided. I still struggle to comprehend the disdain towards foreign leadership given both Eriksson and Capello have improved the national team.

If Harry Redknapp, or any other English manager, is the best-qualified person for the role, then appoint him. This doesn’t mean we have to ignore the fact he is English – for clearly it has some advantages – it just means it should be a factor and not a prerequisite for candidates. Institutionalised xenophobia has done, and will continue to do the national team no favours.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Bennett permalink
    11 January 2012 10:18 pm

    Great analysis, I think that talk of needing an English manager came about after the World Cup in which Capello and England utterly failed. Since then Capello has done pretty decent and has therefore proven that a foreigner can do a completely adequate job (though England will be looking for more than adequate). Personally, if it was an option, I would extend the contract of Capello but seeing as that is now unlikely, I’d like to see Harry Redknapp in the role. Not because he is English but simply because of his management ability and the fact is that at the moment there is no better candidate around!

    • 11 January 2012 10:24 pm

      Thanks, and I’m leaning Redknapp too for the same reasons. Seems options like Wenger, Mourinho, Hiddink are a touch unlikely.

  2. 19 January 2012 9:08 pm

    pls visit:


  1. England’s manager situation « Joshua Kearney

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