Would England’s 60 million managers have done it differently?

October 19, 2007

Gerrard and Rooney walk offThe hardest part of being England’s football manager is probably not managing the team. It’s convincing most of the 60 million people in England who think they can do the job better than you that they can’t.

Since England’s stunning 2-1 defeat to Russia in Moscow on Wednesday night, the position of Steve McClaren, the man who actually holds the job, looks untenable. And suddenly, everyone is an expert. But let’s quickly recap.

With 69 minutes played, England were leading 1-0. Russia were increasing the pressure but the defence was coping. A scribbled observation in my notebook reads: “Russia swarming, but nothing coming of it. Pavlyuchenko settling in slowly.”

Sol Campbell, recalled by McClaren in place of the injured John Terry, looked impregnable. Rio Ferdinand was playing superbly. Joleon Lescott, making his full debut, looked a little unsure at the start but grew in stature as the match progressed. Micah Richards kept Yuri Zhirkov totally subdued.

From my vantage point high in the Luzhniki Stadium England were keeping their shape well. True, Russia had upped the tempo in the second half, but what else where they going to do?

McClaren had inexperienced defenders Nicky Shorey and Luke Young on the bench alongside the vastly experienced Phil Neville.

This is now the crucial question. Should he have reinforced the England defence before the 69th minute when Russia equalised with the first of Pavlyuchenko’s two goals. Sixty million managers-in-waiting will have an opinion about that. But in that stadium, until Russia scored, the English press corps were largely united.

I didn’t hear any of them say, “McClaren, bring on the cavalry.” I did hear them say: “It’s getting hairy, but they can hold on.” They were of the belief that England were doing well  enough. Russia had not had a serious threat and England looked like holding out.

You see a different match on television. In the stadium England looked under pressure –but comfortable with it. Then they conceded two goals in four minutes and lost.

Massive telecoms problems in the stadium meant that many of us could not file our pieces for an hour or more after the match finished.  It gave us time to think, and for the pens of the more vitriolic to be sharpened to a knife point.

McClaren and the rest of us may or may not have seen the goals coming. But once they did, McClaren knew the daggers in the back would follow and they have.

Mike Collett, Reuters Football correspondent, who doesn’t want the job of
England football manager

PHOTO: England’s Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard leave the pitch after their team’s 2-1 defeat to Russia in their Euro 2008 Group E qualifying soccer match at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, October 17, 2007. REUTERS/Darren Staples

5 comments

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I wouldn’t want to be England manager. I don’t think Mourinho will do it either. There is very little opportunity for success. Club soccer is where it’s at: you have more control over player development, aquisition and management.

Posted by Johnny Centreback | Report as abusive

So, let me make sure I got this right: the only reason that McClaren is in trouble now is because journalists had an hour to think about the match (before writing about it)? Your interesting blog also begs the question: Don’t sportswriters usually THINK before they WRITE?

Posted by An England fan | Report as abusive

again i comment on england, mclaren has not done anything wrong who would have more knowlage on the england setup than him, no.2 to sven for few years surely gave him a big enough insite to do the job to the highest standard, again blame the players who are too self indulged in their own greatness they forget putting that shirt on is not a right its a privalage, maybe that shud be taken away from some of the lazy players which have now portrayed our country as a second rate national side, which we clearly are not. If we fail to qualify for euro 2008 (which is highly likely we wont) something needs to be done and not just a new manager!

Posted by badger | Report as abusive

Well, when things are going well, the team is steam rolling opponents, every one is happy, celebrating in pubs with their favourite pint.

But this belief that every thing is good is so shallow in England, that one loss and the dream of ruling the football world crumbles and then we have any one and everyone led by the tabloids (Sun, star, mail…) telling us what has gone wrong and how it should have been different. I am not surprised that the same story is repeating all over again.

Posted by Nachiket Kelkar | Report as abusive

I think what is needed is for the English FA to go through a period of self searching, carefully analyse what is happening before they can start planning to be ‘The best team’ in the world in future. apportioning blame now will not solve the core problem that they have a limited supply of competent players for certain key positions.

Posted by Michael Kizza | Report as abusive

[…] Mike Collett added an interesting post on Would Englandâ

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