The race to become England’s new manager appears to be entering its final straight. Although a Football Association board meeting on Thursday has been long scheduled the ruling body’s head-hunting trio of Martin Glenn, Dan Ashworth and David Gill ideally hope it will prove the venue where they present the case for their preferred candiate.
Although the FA board - principally comprising representatives of the grassroots and professional games - play a part in approving Roy Hodgson’s successor they do not hold a casting vote.
Should Glenn, the FA chief executive, Ashworth, the technical director, and Gill, the vice-chairman, have concluded their interviewing process, the board meeting could turn into an exercise in rubber-stamping the anointing of the chosen one. Alternatively it may merely host a discussion of a process potentially still to conclude.
Whatever happens the following four men are bound to be mentioned in dispatches.
Current job Sunderland manager Age 61
Career high Leading Bolton Wanderers into the Premier League and on into Europe.
Career low His sacking by Newcastle United in January 2008.
Reasons for Arguably the strongest English candidate by some distance. Given the clubs he has managed his record of having never suffered relegation from the Premier League is no mean feat. Performed a minor miracle to keep a very poor Sunderland side out of the Championship last season. Behind the deceptively brash, bruising exterior Allardyce is an intelligent, innovative manager who has helped pioneer the use of, among many other things, sports science, statistics and psychology. A technically skilled tracksuit coach he improved hitherto liabilites such as Younès Kaboul and Patrick van Aanholt beyond recognition at Sunderland last season. An expert at setting teams up for specific matches he has squeezed the maximum out of some very ordinary players and knows precisely how to play to people’s strengths. Proved he could manage highly tricky egos during his stewardship of such high-maintenance indidivuals as Jay‑Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Nicolas Anelka at Bolton. Listens to what people have to say - staff and players report he gives them the invaluable sense of working “with him” rather than “for him.” A wonderful champion of English coaches and managers he grasps the “bigger picture” and would work with the English game’s longer term good very much in mind. On a micro level, knows all about the dark arts of gamesmanship which, while not to be condoned, could come in useful. The health and welfare of individual players are always of paramount concern to this student of physiology and mental health. Infinitely less abrasive and chippy than during his younger days he is much mellowed – something he partly ascribes to regular transendental meditation. Sufficiently tough, battle-hardened and bloody-minded this warhorse will ride out bouts of media criticism and fan unrest. Not to mention boot out any bad, disruptive, locker room apples.
Reasons against Although far more three-dimensional than the binary long-ball, hoof-and-hope manager of popular caricature, Allardyce remains a pragmatist who will never apologise for deploying less-than-easy-on-the-eye tactics if the occasion demands. Can sometimes restrict individual players’ freedom to improvise. No-nonsense, sometimes politically incorrect, approach could cause consternation within the corridors of FA power. Despite widespread popularity among mainly British peers, Allardyce has made enemies with some overseas rivals – most notably Rafael Benítez. Although once-hostile relations with Arsène Wenger have improved it is still hard to imagine Arsenal’s manager – or a few others – doing him any favours. Certain players may be underwhelmed by him and, used to doing things a different way at their clubs, initially struggle to trust some of his methods.
Current job Hull City manager Age 55
Career high Leading Hull City to two promotions to the Premier League and the 2014 FA Cup final.
Career low Being sacked by Sunderland, the biggest club he has managed, in November 2011.
Reasons for Experience. Been there, seen it, done it, bought the T-shirt – the much-decorated former Manchester United captain has presided over almost 800 games as a manager and won four promotions. Bruce preaches a brand of competitive yet attractive football and produced an exciting Sunderland side before everything swiftly unravelled following Darren Bent’s sale to Aston Villa. Resolutely down to earth, blessed with a wonderful sense of typical Geordie humour and rarely fails to appreciate the nuances of life’s shades of grey.
Reasons against The biggest break of his career – at Sunderland – ended in tears. Although far from the “dinosaur” of popular depiction he remains sufficiently old school to cause a few palpitations at St George’s Park. Players often respond brilliantly to him for a couple of seasons or so before things start coming undone and underachievement sets in – see Tom Huddlestone at Hull. May disappoint sections of England’s dressing room and is much more a manager than a tracksuit coach. Motivation represents his strongest suit but will it wash with the Raheem Sterlings and Daniel Sturridges of this world?
Current job USA manager Age 51
Career high Leading Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup.
Career low Leaving Bayern Munich after less than a year in charge in April 2009.
Reasons for Charismatic, articulate, engaging, slightly alternative. Almost certain to challenge orthodoxies, voice left-field alternatives and generally shake things up within the FA. Possesses considerable international experience with Germany and now the US. Likely to surf a wave of goodwill stemming from his popularity as a Tottenham Hotspur striker. Playing achievements dictate dressing room has heard of him and, initially at least, should listen to what he has to say. Possesses California-sized optimism and will have little difficulty in “taking the positives”.
Reasons against Critics have expressed doubts about how good a coach lurks behind an admittedly bewitching exterior. Many say he needs a top, technically skilled, No2 by his side. Was his success with Germany mainly down to the input of his successor and erstwhile assistant Joachim Löw? Has a habit of falling out with employers and making life needlessly difficult. Left Bayern Munich before the end of a hugely disappointing season which saw him fail to implement certain promises and forfeit credibility with a few daft innovations. Relations with his US superiors are currently strained. Lacks potentially invaluable club experience and has certainly not done the “hard yards” completed by rivals. Adores the sunshine and lifestyle in southern California and may find scouting at Stoke and Sunderland a culture shock. Perhaps most importantly, has never managed in England. In the final analysis, might he bewilder more than bewitch?
Current job Bournemouth manager Age 38
Career high Leading Bournemouth into the Premier League in 2015 and, against all odds, keeping them there.
Career low Leaving Burnley citing personal reasons in 2012.
Reasons for One of the brightest young coaches in English football. Articulate, personable, convincing and possessing a healthy degree of humility and nicely understated humour. Possesses the invaluable – and increasingly rare – knack of securing wins courtesy of a sophisticated brand of entertaining, attacking, easy-on-the-eye football. Has made Bournemouth much greater than the sum of their playing parts suggested was possible, guiding them to 16th in their first season in the top flight. Players listen – and respond – to him. A genuinely gifted tracksuit coach. Believes philosophy matters and appreciates the devil really is in the detail.
Reasons against He is too young, this is far too early and could ruin an immensely promising career. Look how accepting the England job too soon spoilt things for Steve McClaren – a similarly gifted coach – in 2006. Howe has never managed a big club supported by expectant crowds and a demanding, media pack. His one managerial foray outside Bournemouth – to Burnley – ended in a swift return partly prompted by homesickness. Belief that possession remains king may be out of sync with international football’s latest direction.
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