The way certain sections of the UK media built themselves up for the inevitable disappointment at Euro 2016 with England, it seems they really haven’t learned from history and after the departure of the beleaguered Roy Hodgson, it seems the FA haven’t learned either.
Portugal winning Euro 2016 was really a victory for tactical prowess over superior talent. Despite having a genuine world superstar in their midst and some talented players in their squad, Portugal probably shouldn’t have been able to get beyond a quarter-final, let alone reach the final and win the tournament. The way coach Fernando Santos had the defensive side of the game set up was very good and improved as the tournament wore on. Their back four became greater than the sum of its parts, well screened by an improving midfield. It was the type of organisation and functionality that England desperately lacked.
Whilst England has some good and very good players, they do not possess the depth of talent that the likes of Germany, France, Spain and even Belgium have to call on. To counteract and over overcome better players and teams usually takes good planning, preparation, organisation and tactical nous. That was what Portugal, Wales, Iceland and even Italy utilised to progress as far as they did this summer. Roy Hodgson offered none of those attributes and his disorganised, dysfunctional, fragile and fragmented England side paid the price. As a last resort to battle a shortfall in talent and tactics, you call upon motivation of Herculean proportions and Roy Hodgson is hardly a William Wallace type figure.
In short, what England need in order to improve their standing at International tournaments is a man with a plan. Whether that be a young manager with a long term vision or a more experienced one with a proven record, but either way, a man with a coherent plan.
It appears that the man the FA have identified to take England forward is Sam Allardyce. Really? Big Sam?
That would be like going from a dinosaur to the stone age, hardly a sign of progression from the FA for a national team that is falling further behind the major tournament contenders. What exactly has Allardyce done in his career to warrant him taking charge of a national team that actually harbours ambitions of winning a tournament? His tactical and philosophical approach to the game is not too dissimilar to Hodgson, whose attempt move away from his hoof-ball comfort zone resulted in the rudderless mess that was Euro 2016.
If Allardyce stayed true to his outdated approach, it might be more organised, but would it really get the best out of some of the talented footballers that England actually possess? Players who, in the main, are used to playing for the Premier League’s leading clubs with better managers and allowed to express themselves on the pitch. That is not a style akin to Allardyce, whose teams are known for a more agricultural and direct approach that is suited to the mentality of an overachieving underdog who sees mediocrity as an achievement. Just look at his reign at West Ham, he was able to stabilise them, get them promoted and then maintain their Premier League status. When it came to taking them on to the next level and improving their playing style, that was when Allardyce departed the club and was replaced by Slaven Bilic, who got them playing better football and moved them up the table.
I mean no disrespect to Iceland, but is adopting their underdog approach whereby reaching a quarter-final is an incredible achievement really what the FA are aiming for? Surely the FA have bigger hopes than that for the England football team. I’m not suggesting they can realistically win the next World Cup, but with the right manager, a semi-final shouldn’t be out of the question.
So, are West Ham more ambitious than the FA?
It appears to be the case with Sunderland reported to have given the FA permission to speak to Allardyce about the vacant England Manager position. Perhaps soon, England fans can look forward to watching that inspiring ‘percentages’ game that Allardyce loves and another desperate tournament performance.