The FA have decided this week that they will not be renewing the contract of England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce, mainly due to his teams terrible performance this summer at the Under-21 European Championships. The team took no points from any of their three games and look far behind every rival at the tournament.
The next task will be to appoint a manager who can not only gain qualification to these tournaments (something that Pearce did consistently during his time in the role) but who is able to produce an end product in the finals and bring home trophies. As well as glory, the FA will be looking for someone who can deliver the right kind of football, involving technical ability, confidence on the ball and creative flair.
We look at the top five candidates to take over England Under-21s:
The former national team manager has been very vocal in the press about what he thinks is wrong with the English youth set up and many believe his strong stance and confident character is what will be needed to get change from the FA and tackle uncooperative Premier League managers. In 2008 he set up the Glenn Hoddle Academy that retrains young players who have been released by clubs. The motivational skills he will have learnt from that experience, getting young players to love the game again, will be needed to rejuvenate an embarrassed squad. His past controversies when under the national limelight will mean that the FA may be hesitant to approach the 55-year-old.
The England international had his management career cut short at Middlesbrough while he was planning promotion back into the Premier League in 2009. For two years he has worked alongside Sir Trevor Brooking as the FA’s head of elite development, and helped implement the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The former defender is a known commodity at the national Football Association where he is very popular, so making him Under-21 manager wouldn’t be such a risk for new chairman Greg Dyke. His background in English football means that forging links between the national set up and the major clubs will be made much easier.
The 60-year-old has already held the position of Under-21 manager twice before (between 1996 and 1999, and then again between 2004 and 2007) as well as having been England manager for a single game in 2000. Taylor has managed at eleven football clubs in England as well as a successful stint as Bahrain national manager, in which he took gold at the Arab Games in 2011. He is currently part of an England youth setup, having agreed to manage the England Under-20 side at the World Cup this summer. His results at the tournament will surely be considered when the FA sits down to appoint a new Under-21 manager.
The former Middlesbrough, FC Twente, Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest manager has been touted as a candidate for the Under-21 job. His return to the England national set-up would require a leap of faith from both parties who still feel the wounds of their last encounter between 2006 and 2007. McLaren’s stewardship of the national team involved high-profile players being dropped, humiliating U-turns and the eventual failure to qualify for Euro 2008 (the first time England hadn’t qualified for the tournament in 24 years). However, the 52-year-old went on to forge a successful career in Europe with FC Twente and gave the club its first league victory in its history. That was the high mark as moves to Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest didn’t work out quite so well. His appointment to the job would be extremely surprising.
Phil and Gary Neville
Older brother Gary has already been chosen to coach the England national side by Roy Hodgson after he ended a long and illustrious Manchester United career, with the decision roundly applauded by all the players in the national team squad. Phil Neville, also recently retired, has made noises about moving into management or coaching and in 2012 worked with the Under-21 squad for their game against Belgium (which they won 4-0). The FA would been keen to get the two to collaborate and pass on their experience to England youngsters, while the fluid movement from playing for the national team before going on to coach it would help the Associations development credentials.
image: © Ethan.K