The England Stranglehold Will Choke Us To Death

All things England have been reported unstoppably in the tabloids lately, in the jingoistic writings of various media outlets. And the opprobrium levelled Fabio Capello’s way was simply embarrassing. It was an insult to any football fan worth his salt, it was insult to a man who is renowned globally for his managerial skills and it was an insult to a four-year term served and executed far from perfectly, but at least acceptably so.

And now Capello has resigned and the rallying cries for Redknapp rise up. It just seemed so inevitable. The campaign was just too fierce and, as Dave Fox noted in his England piece yesterday, it would be naive to suggest he resigned simply because of the argument over John Terry. Because underneath that reasoning is a long list of reasons for which the Italian must have thought, ‘for the love of f*ck, screw this’. Harry Redknapp has done a great job with Tottenham Hotspur. But you see by the press’ admission, anyone would believe Redknapp has won the treble, lifted the World Cup aloft and slain dragons, poking out their eyes with nothing more than sellotaped pencil whilst simultaneously saving the humble townsfolk from a fiery fate. But he hasn’t. Harry Redknapp has had a decent career in football, winning a trophy and doing well with a near title challenging Spurs. Shall we contrast that with Fabio Capello? He has assembled nine league titles, a Champions League winner’s medal and as touched on before, is known for being a world-class manager. What makes us think Harry will do any better?

Now, don’t get me wrong, Fabio hasn’t turned water into wine. The World Cup was a disappointing tournament tainted by disarray. It was a failure on his part, I will wholeheartedly concur. But do we forget the state we were in before his appointment? He did well with the two qualifying campaigns, winning the groups in near-perfect fashion. This wasn’t a failure. But it is almost as if the qualification and blooding new talents is forgotten about and any slender trace of what Fabio did right is buried under a weight of what Fabio did wrong, while players are blameless. The extremes are set out once more: Fabio the villain, Harry the hero. I soon wonder when Harry will be the next villain.

Does anyone, especially the media, actually want England to succeed? Or are they concerned only with who they want to see in the job, disputing logic and the good of the side along the way? Do they actually believe having Capello leave, whether he should have resigned or not, four months before the competition starts is a good thing? Do they believe targeting and alienating their manager in xenophobic fashion is right, and that positivity is to be gained from endless criticism and replacing positivity and logic with narcissism? Do they actually believe the thin, thin evidence for the old dogma of ‘only and Englishman can put spirit in to these boys’ is the correct one? Really? And why must it be an English manager?

Because he knows what it is like to be English, they will bark.

Ah, right. So that’s why the likeable Sven-Goran Erikkson, a man who qualified for three tournaments in a row and oh wait – not only that – but reached the quarter final of said competitions, succeeded. Because he’s Swedish but knew what it was like to be English. And that rascal McClaren, well he was a foreigner wasn’t he! No, he was English. And failed miserably. Just like the last Englishman before him, Kevin Keegan. In fact, the foreign managers have statistically the better records than English ones do. But still, let’s ignore any perfectly applicable foreign managers for English ones. It’s a grotesque embarrassment, the whole sorry ordeal, as the pats on the back ring out whilst a world-class manager of whose elk we will not see again leaves. So how much longer can we go on like this? How long until every last remnant of hope is lost and every last squad and tournament is ruined? When and how will it end? In 20 years of further embarassment? What will become of us in the future – even more of a joke? Just constantly tainted in a whirlwind of misery? Will it just continue and continue and continue? Surely something’s gotta give, for our own football sanity as much as anything, but how? How can anyone succeed under this snowballing stranglehold, and who will be left stupid enough to take the job, 6 million pounds of money or not? Otherwise what are we left with as an international football nation? Just nothing?

Because England, the corrosive effect surrounding them and the ridiculousness of the position that is still pretentiously described as the most honourable one in the country, are a shambles. Our country only has finger pointing extremes and over-the-top conclusions. Harry will take over next but because of the chokehold does it matter? For if he ‘fails’ it will either remain the manager’s fault, which considering Redknapp’s popularity is doubtful, or it will be firmly footed back at the door of the players. It will be the blame game cycle going round once more. And how tedious and unhelpful it truly is.

Until we wise up and realise pinches of salt are to be taken every-time managers are described as ‘donkeys’ and silly conclusions of ‘only an English manager for the English team’ are repeated multiple times we will remain in International football’s no man’s land: always seeing things in extremes, building up silly expectations and egos, and locking the stranglehold on the set-up ever tighter. Sooner or later, this stranglehold might just wilt what little talent we do have left, and choke us to death.