Fabio Capello resigned as England manager on Wednesday as he was upset over the Board of the Football Association stripping John Terry of the captaincy, against the Italian’s wishes. Capello felt he had been disrespected and his position to make decisions on his team had been undermined, thus had no choice but to leave his post, a mere four months before the European Championships begin. He believed it was unfair to remove the captain’s armband from Terry without the defender having been found guilty, since the Chelsea player will not stand trial until July, and Capello believed that he should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, as is the rule of law. However, the Board’s decision is not completely without precedence: when Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were awaiting court cases on the charges of affray and Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) respectively, it was ruled that, until judgement was passed down, neither was eligible for selection for the national team. Had this rule been codified, there would have been no question of whether or not Terry would continue as captain, since he would not have been able to be in the squad until after his trial. Given the seriousness of the charges – racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, a fellow professional and the brother of Terry’s England colleague, Rio – it would have been worse for the Chelsea man to be allowed to represent his country as captain at the Euros, with a potential guilty verdict coming just weeks after the tournament. He deserves to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, but that does not afford Terry the right to lead out his country – a multicultural nation with an ethnically diverse squad – with those charges as yet unanswered.
As for Capello’s replacement, it seems inevitable that Harry Redknapp will be taking over as the next England manager. The one obstacle to his ascension to the role, his own trial for tax evasion, ended with a not guilty verdict – the very same day that Capello resigned. Redknapp himself has publicly stated before that it would be very hard for him to turn down the opportunity to manage his country – which means that Tottenham Hotspur are likely to be looking for a new boss in the very near future. I have never been his biggest fan – he is definitely more of a motivator than a tactician – but Redknapp did lift Spurs from bottom of the table when he took over, to their current position of third, as well as their first appearance in the European Cup since 1962.
There has been a swell of opinion from various players and media outlets stating that only an Englishman should be considered for the job. In the time since Capello’s exit was announced, much has been made of the fact that the Italian never learned English and that this had been a barrier to his communicating with the side. This issue did not seem to raise its head during the qualification process for Euro 2012, when England remained unbeaten during their campaign and finished top of their group. Michael Owen tweeted that everyone involved in the England setup should English, from the manager to the tea-lady. By the way that’s Welsh-born, former England striker, Michael Owen. What would people count as English? If Arsene Wenger decided he wanted to become manager, and was naturalised – as he is able to do, having lived and worked in the country for so long – would people accept him? Britain is historically a nation of immigrants and many of the current stars in other sports – such as half of the England cricket team and middle-distance runner, Mo Farah – represent the nation, but were born elsewhere. If the claim is that the national team should be managed only by someone who is eligible to play for that country, I can understand the reasoning – but that is not the rules of the game and other countries do not stick to that principle. What England needs is someone who understands the English game and can communicate with the players and handle the big personalities. If that was the primary concern, the FA should be pursuing Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the English league over the last 20 years.
After England’s first foreign manager, Sven Goren-Eriksson – there was a similar clamour to return to having an Englishman in charge – that ended up with Steve McLaren’s disastrous reign, culminating in the team missing out on qualification for Euro 2008. Indeed, the only two tournaments that England have failed to appear in since 1978 have been: those European Championships and the USA World Cup in 1994 – both times the manager was English. Much criticism has been leveled at Capello and previously at Eriksson, but between them they led the team to qualify for five tournaments out of a possible five. Nevertheless, it does seem inevitable that the next full-time England manager will be an Englishman – Harry Redknapp – which leaves Tottenham looking to replace the man who has taken them to heights they have not seen since the days of Terry Venables. This has an air of familiarity to Spurs fans – whenever the team looks to be on the verge of making progress or significantly improving, something comes up to derail the club – be it players being sold (recently, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov), or managers leaving (Venables, after a falling out with Alan Sugar).
So what next for Tottenham? My hope is that if Redknapp is to be appointed, it either is announced after the season, or he leaves immediately to begin his new role. If there is a period of him continuing as manager of Spurs, while also preparing to take over England, or doing both roles simultaneously, this is likely to be a huge distraction for the club and may affect the ability of the players to focus on the team, knowing that they are going to be getting a new boss in the summer. The next Tottenham manager will be inheriting a very strong squad, potentially one that will be playing in the Champions League next season and thus more talent will be easily recruited – meaning the candidates to replace Redknapp would be a much more impressive list than those on the shortlist four years ago when Harry took charge. Many people have been touting Jose Mourinho as the man for the job and the Portuguese “Special One” has a proven track record of success everywhere he has been. He led Porto to be Champions of Europe; won Chelsea’s first (and second) league title in 50 years, as well as the FA Cup and League Cup (twice); won the Champions League with Internazionale, plus two Serie A championships; and at Real Madrid he has won the Copa del Rey and his team leads Barcelona by seven points in La Liga. Aside from the issue of actually convincing Mourinho to take over at White Hart Lane, there is also the fact that his teams tend to play a more pragmatic style of football than that traditionally played by Tottenham. While success will often compensate for a lack of entertainment, Spurs fans yearn for both and if results were not forthcoming, negative and dull tactics will lead to them turning on a manager very quickly.
My choice for the next Tottenham boss would be someone who is already at the club – Clive Allen. The former Spurs striker has done great work with the youth team and has helped develop many of the younger players who have come through the ranks at the Lane. Given that Redknapp’s assistants, Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan, tend to follow him wherever he goes and thus are unlikely to take the job themselves, Allen would be the man who provided the easiest transition for the playing squad. He is already known by them and he would be able to rely on coaches Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood as his assistants – making for a management team who have all played for the club and would understand the traditions and ways of Tottenham. With such appointments, there is often a demand for a “big name” to appease the fans, but in the past this led to the appointment of Jacques Santini over Martin Jol, with the Dutchman having to take an assistant role. Very quickly, it became evident that the Frenchman was not up to the job and Jol took over as manager – taking the team to within one dodgy lasagna of their first qualification for the Champions League in the Premiership era. This time around, Mourinho may be the bigger name, but Clive Allen would be my pick.
Of course, Redknapp might still say no to England…