Home Sports England may have to lower expectations after Euro failure

England may have to lower expectations after Euro failure


London : Steve McClaren duly received his marching orders Thursday after England’s abject failure to qualify for the finals of Euro 2008.

The England head coach made a series of highly questionable decisions – dropping David Beckham, bringing him back, and then dropping him again – and there seems little doubt that he was a little out of his depth, even if he is renowned as a good coach.

But some big questions remain. Who next, and what next for England?

Former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho and Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill are the joint favourites with the bookmakers – although Mourinho is reported to have ruled himself out – while the likes of Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi and Luis-Felipe Scolari are all likely to be linked with the job.

Scolari, of course, was the man the Football Association (FA) wanted, and thought they had, only for him to eventually reject the chance, all of which left McClaren already fighting an uphill battle as second-best, at least.

The problem for the FA, and the new man – whoever he is – will be that apart from a couple of friendlies, England will not have a match of note until next autumn, when the World Cup qualifying competition begins.

Would someone like Mourinho want to take the job now and twiddle his thumbs, for the most part, until then? Would O’Neill leave Aston Villa having only just settled into the job?

The FA say there is no reason the England coach has to be an Englishman – and that’s just as well as English candidates are few and far between.

Newcastle’s Sam Allardyce and West Ham’s Alan Curbishley have both ruled themselves out, though their stock has fallen since they were interviewed for the job as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s successor last summer.

The likes of Harry Redknapp, who has done well with Portsmouth, are surely not what the FA has in mind, but the most successful managers in the country, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez, are all unavailable.

Perhaps England could go the same way as Holland and Germany, which, in appointing Marco van Basten and Jurgen Klinsmann respectively, ignored a lack of experience and went for a national icon.

In that respect, former striker Alan Shearer would fit the bill, even if he is unlikely to be as much of a thinker as either the Holland coach or the former Germany coach. It would be bold, but fairly popular.

Television and radio shows across England were abuzz Thursday with opinions on what is wrong with English football: the wrong manager, the wrong players, the wrong people at the FA, too many foreigners in the Premier League.

Whoever is the next manager will probably pick the same group of players, with the odd exception, so it’s more about getting the best out of them and playing the right formation to do so.

When the Premier League was founded in 1992, its remit was to provide a high enough standard for the good of the national team. With more than 200 foreign players now plying their trade, the worry is that good young English players are not coming through.

Quotas would contravene European law and are therefore virtually irrelevant, and the FA are reluctant to change anything because the men who rule on such matters have strong connections to Premier League clubs.

There is a conflict of interests there, and until the FA is independent of the Premier League, and has the power to command it to change, nothing will happen in that department.

The job of England manager is often referred to as a “poisoned chalice,” given the huge expectations of the fans and the media hype, all despite the fact that they have won the World Cup only once, 41 years ago and have only made the semi-finals of major competitions on two other occasions.

England still has a host of world-class players and McClaren can count himself unlucky to have been without Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole against Croatia.

The draw for the qualifying stages of the 2010 World Cup takes place on Sunday and though the likes of Arsenal striker Theo Walcott offer some hope for the future, it is no foregone conclusion that England will reach the finals in South Africa.

But perhaps England need to simply lower their expectations. They will have plenty of time to ponder the future next summer, at least.