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Expectations vs. Reality

The England national team, aside from brief and usually unwarranted spells in the top three of the FIFA rankings tends to hover around 7th or 8th in the world. This being the case if the team then performs according to the rankings, reaching the quarter final stage is  an adequate performance in either the World Cup or the European Championship.

Whenever a manager achieves this however, there is inevitably an instant furore from the media declaring that the wrong tactics were used, the wrong team picked and usually that the players themselves simply didn't try hard enough. Unless then they achieve above and beyond what should realistically be expected of them, any England manager is forever ludicrously tarnished by the fact that they tend to get the 8th best team in the world into 8th position in major competitions.

There is certainly some truth to the idea that on paper, the England national team should be a lot better than they are. For the most part however this is a failure of neither the players themselves of indeed the manager.

Lions in the Winter and Lambs in the Summer

One of the biggest reasons that English national football, and increasingly international football on the whole has declined is the fact that players now enter the major competitions exhausted after playing through the season for their club sides.

UEFA president and French footballing great Michelle Platini famously said of the England national team that they were like: "lions in the winter and lambs in the summer"

Putting aside the stereotypical French footballing love of speaking primarily in simile and metaphor, Platini has a point.

While the average number of games hasn't increased dramatically over the years the pace of the game has, often meaning that by the summer internationals are simply too burnt out to perform as well as we are used to seeing them in the league.

Many leagues tend to have a winter break to allow players to recuperate. The premier league have been roundly criticized for summarily rejecting calls for a winter break in several occasions. In the current climate of the game however they may have a point in saying that the break wouldn't make any difference.

For the most part the bigger clubs almost certainly wouldn't use a winter break to rest players. Much more likely they would undertake tours and play exhibition matches much the same as they do during the summer.  Not as gruelling as league competition perhaps but certainly not truly restful. From the club's perspective however an easy way of making money and garnering fans in new markets.

Popular Opinion over Candidate Qualification?

After the failure of Fabio Capello to improve England's performances during his tenure despite a fantastic track record at club level, the immediate cry from the media and fans alike was that an Englishman was needed to manage the england national team.

The basis of this largely seems not to be the fact that Capello under-achieved but that in interviews he didn't appear to have an advanced command of English. The call for an English manager similarly seems to disregard things such as managerial track record, knowledge of the game and all the other relevent skills related to managing a national team. The only prerequisite is seemingly that the candidate is English.

If progress is ever to be made surely the best approach would simply be to hire the best available candidate for the job regardless of nationality. To placate all parties even making the decision with the proviso that the candidate must be fluent in English would be a vast improvement.

The idea of alternating foreign and English managers is actually a fairly new one.

Following a string of disappointing runs under English managers, the last of which being Kevin Keegan followed by several caretaker managers, Sven Goran Eriksson was appointed as the first foreign manager of the English national team in 2001. After a largely successful run culminating in a quarter final loss in the 2006 world cup to Portugal, Eriksson departed and immediately public opinion demanded a native be the next to take the job.

 Enter Steve McClaren, under whose management the team failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Again opinion shifted and once again a foreign manager, Italian Fabio Capello, was appointed. And so it goes on, with Roy Hodgson being the latest in a long line of managers possibly chosen as much for his nationality as his suitability to the job.