Farewell Wayne

 

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Imagine my surprise when the article I was writing about the merits of Wayne Rooney’s imminent England recall were torpedoed by the announcement Rooney was retiring from international football.

It’s the right decision for Rooney, for Everton and probably England too. Rooney has got himself in condition, found form and is rekindling his old flame with Everton, good luck to him.

The challenge of a 38 game league campaign plus cups plus Europa League is a sizeable undertaking for a 31 year old without the additional demand of internationals. If he ends  Everton’s 22 year trophy drought it will provide a final flourish to a glorious career.

Yet somehow Rooney has never quite become the loved figure his record seems to merit. As has been poured over this summer following his departure from Old Trafford, he left Manchester United with the clubs goalscoring record, a truckload of medals and accolades but never seemed to quite have the love of the Old Trafford faithful afforded Charlton, Best, Law & Ronaldo.

His England career will inevitably be summed up with this sort of sentence- He’s England’s record goalscorer and he never delivered in a major tournament. It’s the Rooney paradox.

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Rooney arrived with England to tremendous hype- the final piece of the golden generation jigsaw, the superstar to bring glory to England’s hugely talented side. Rooney’s first tournament with England was by far the best- setting Euro 2004 alight with  three stunning displays and 4 goals from the group phase. But then came the first metatarsal injury in the quarter finals and his tournament came to an abrupt end.

In 2006 he suffered another metatarsal break at the tail end of Manchester United’s season and the nation went into a month long ‘will he won’t he go debate’. What’s alarming looking back at the 2006 media furore is I can’t remember a single journalist or pundit giving serious consideration to what England would do without him. But it seemed the nation didn’t need to worry, Rooney was training and declared ‘injury free’ by Sven so it was panic over.

Of course the term ‘injury free’ was carefully selected and really meant he wasn’t match fit or even fully recovered. He was kept out of England’s opening game but brought off the bench in the next and it became evident quickly he was at best 50% fit, his frustration grew and ended in a red card in the quarter finals.

The biggest scar on Rooney’s England career (and many others) came in South Africa in 2010. Rooney arrived at the tournament England’s great hope, but left with 4 appearances no goals and no assists. Again a pre tournament injury meant he wasn’t 100% fit but that didn’t explain why he suddenly couldn’t trap a ball, his post match rant about supporters after an insipid 0-0 draw with Algeria didn’t help his standing.

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Fabio Capello kept faith with Rooney for Euro 2012 qualifying and Rooney rewarded him with goals, but in England’s final qualifier for Euro 2012 Rooney picked up his second England red cad- with a 2 match suspension slapped on as punishment. England started the tournament well picking up 4 points from 2 Rooneyless games, new manager Roy Hodgson brought Rooney back straight away but again a lack of match sharpness told. Alex Ferguson always maintained Rooney needed games to reach his maximum level and was not a player who could make an immediate impact, it’s hard to argue with his assessment.

And so to Brazil 2014, Rooney’s last chance to make a major impact at the World Cup, sadly the England squad of 2014 was a pale imitation of 2006 with few major stars. A tough draw did for Hodgson’s limited side but notably England’s only goals came from a Rooney cross against Italy and his neat finish against Uruguay, had he been in a better side maybe that would’ve been his tournament.

In 2015 Rooney became England’s record goalscorer by despatching a penalty against Switzerland in Euro qualifying. By the time England arrived at Euro 2016 a new generation of strikers were available to England: Kane, Rashford & Vardy. Hodgson shuffled Rooney into midfield with initial success but when England crashed into the Icelandic iceberg Rooney was heavily criticised.

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In 2016/17 Rooney’s form faded and new England manager Gareth Southgate wisely dropped him, Rooney to his credit took it professionally and got on with it. Ironically  Southgate wanted to recall Rooney this week when Wayne decided it was time to go.

It’ll be interesting to hear Southgate’s thoughts on Rooney at tomorrow’s squad announcement, was the proposed recall with the World Cup in mind or a reward for his club form this season? Southgate had always maintained he would recall Rooney if his form merited inclusion.

Part of the conundrum with England was his various England managers (he played for 6) had different ideas about where to play him; Sven saw him as a deep lying forward, Capello an out and out number 9, whilst Hodgson eventually put him in central midfield having previously played him as a striker, wide attacker and number 10.

Another issue was Rooney’s lack of tactical discipline, he always seemed to follow the ball rather than hold his position, the worst example coming in 2014 against Italy where he wad deployed on the left of a 4-2-3-1 but failed to provide Leighton Baines with cover and Italy cashed in.

All that being said Rooney was a fine player for England lighting up Euro 2004, many a night at Wembley and dragging England’s chestnuts out of 1numerous qualification fires. While he was never quite the Leo Messi he was once hailed but he was a great international player.

I’ve said before he reminds me of former Spain & Real Madrid striker Raul- a creative forward with an eye for goal who left the Bernabeu with a bookful of records and a suitcase crammed with medals. For Spain he enjoyed a hugely credible career playing 100+ times and setting a new goal scoring record but was never quite the  national saviour he was hailed and never got beyond the quarter finals of a major tournament- sound familiar?

Interestingly Rooney’s resignation statement ended with this reference “One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan – or in any capacity” referring to the possibility of England winning something. Is he hinting at a coaching career? Maybe not but it’s important Rooney passes on his knowledge of international football to England’s next generation and remains visible at St George’s Park perhaps helping the juniors or even just giving talks about his England career.

Rooney was a great servant to England and Gary Lineker was probably right in saying we have under appreciated him. But it’s the right time for England and it’s most famous player to move on.

 

 

 

 

 

England’s winner and losers Premier League Week 2

Winners

Phil Jones

Who’d have thought it, Phil Jones has been excellent this season. Fitting neatly into Mourinho’s land of the giants Jones has benefited from his manager’s unwillingness to trust new boy Victor Lindelof. He’s kept 2 clean sheets almost got a goal and has yet to do anything clumsy or stupid. Yet.

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Harry Maguire

Maguire was the one defender who looked competent in Leicester’s opener with Arsenal. Against Brighton he was masterful, defending solidly, pushing forward, spraying around some nice passes and scoring. If there’s such a thing as a £17m bargain Maguire is it.

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Jack Butland

Exceptional against Arsenal, Butland will surely be between the sticks against Malta when he may require a chair.

Nat Chalobah

Quiet last week, Southgate would probably have called him up to make a point about the need to play every week rather than sit on a champions league bench. No need for such politics based on his commanding display at Bournemouth. Except for that ‘Leave it’ incident, that was sh$te.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Gave the best performance of his fledgling Everton career at the Etihad. He has pace, provided an outlet an played Rooney in for Everton’s goal. Significantly he was picked to start over Alex Sandro.

Raheem Sterling

It wasn’t looking good for Sterling or City when Pep Guardiola sent him on at half time against Everton. His blast over the bar when it looked easier to score pointed to familiar failings but his fine finish for the equaliser suggested he’s learning. Looked sharp and creative as the 10 men searched for a goal.

Losers

Joe Hart

Moved to West Ham to reassert his authority, West Ham have conceded 7 goals in 2 games. Hmm.

Daniel Sturridge

Got a start and his big chance, he didn’t play badly but never looked like scoring in the 61 minutes he was on. 12 minutes after taking him off Liverpool got the break through with subs Mo Salah and Dom Solanke prominent in getting the Reds over the line. Sturridge may be waiting until the League Cup for his next chance.

Jesse Lingard 

2 games into the season and Jesse Lingard has played 2 minutes of premier league football.  Worse still Anthony Martial has come off the Manchester United bench twice to score, relegating Lingard to plan C meanwhile United are being persistently linked with a late transfer move for a wide man, uh oh.

 

 

 

 

England Squad Announcement- Why fans should care

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On Thursday lunchtime Gareth Southgate will announce his first England squad of the season. International squad announcements are usually followed by a collective groan. It’s the signal that a fledging season whose narratives we’re becoming engrossed in is shortly to be paused in order for England to take on the footballing powerhouse of Malta. It’s the footballing equivalent of a Theatre interval and the usher telling you the bar’s shut and we’ve run out of ice cream.

International breaks are tedious and I’d be happy to see friendlies restricted to the summer. However this squad announcement is more important than most.

Firstly Thursday’s squad will be the first of a World Cup year, with a manager keen to promote youth there will inevitably be new faces. Coming only 2 games into the new season the number will be limited with many young players thus far restricted to bit part roles in the fledging campaign. That’s normal until the autumn and the onset of injuries and two games a week forces managers to shift around their squads. It means players like Dominic Solanke, Will Hughes, Demarai Gray & Harry Winks all of whom could be in for a break out year will have to bide their time.

However Southgate’s squad will include some or possibly all of Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nat Chalobah, Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, James Ward-Prowse & Tammy Abraham. Might there be another left field selection?- Marc Albrighton’s positive start to the season shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

And of course there’s Rooney- had Rooney stayed at Man United or globe trotted his way to China this wouldn’t be an issue. However his Everton return has had a revitalising effect on Rooney but is he really back to form or just enjoying a brief Indian Summer? I suspect the Rooney recall saga will go on all season. If the World Cup was next month Rooney would go just on current form and the early season struggles of others. But after a long season will he have anything left in the tank?

Other will be waiting anxiously by the phone to see if their lack of game time costs them an England place. Southgate has insisted it’s important players are getting a regular game so where does that leave Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott? It is hard to judge based on the limited sample size of 2 games another reason I suspect there’ll be a sizeable group from Everton whose Europa odyssey has seen them play 5 games already. Against City this week they started 8 English players, Calvert Lewin was particularly good although if picked he’d be on the bench behind Marcus Rashford so perhaps would benefit more from going with the Under 21s.

The Under 21’s are the other announcement of the week and fans should keep an eye on this one. The Euro Under 21’s in June marked the end of one squad cycle for Aidy Boothroyd and this week starts a new one. Many of the side that made the semis this summer are now over aged for the U21s meaning a squad reboot is upon us. For England that means the introduction of players from this summers 3 tournament winning squads, a nice position to work from.

Boothroyd has an embarrassment of riches to choose from and the likes of Solanke,  Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden & Mason Mount could be forming an exciting new team. Whilst the World Cup is ultimately England’s goal the 2019 Euro Under 21s should be the next prize England are seriously hunting. Adding it to the Euro Under 19s, Toulon tournament double, Under 20 World Cup and 2014 Euro Under 17s all in the bag.

The accumulation of junior prizes is an essential part of success at senior level. But the tournament is a long way off and England face a tough opening fixture away to Holland, in a group that also includes Ukraine & Scotland. It’s also important to keep the momentum going from England’s excellent summer, the Under 17 World Cup is only a couple of months away and building interest in the face of an all consuming domestic season and an imminent senior World Cup is a tough challenge for the FA.

This week should provide some indication of where England are going, hopefully some progress on the pitch and 6 points in the bank.

Predicted England Squad;

Goalkeepers- Butland, Hart, Pickford

Defenders- Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Bertrand, Cresswell, Cahill, Keane, Stones, Jones, Maguire, Mawson

Midfielders- Henderson, Dier, Chalobah, Ward-Prowse

Wingers/ Number 10s- Alli, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Redmond

Strikers- Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Rooney, Welbeck

Injured/ short fitness Clyne, Trippier, Shaw, Rose, Lallana, Barkley, Wilshere

 

 

 

 

 

Man City 1-1 Everton: Rooney makes his point

The first Monday Night Game of the season started with fireworks before kick off leading to a hazy smog around the Etihad Stadium. But the expected fireworks on the pitch gave way to a tactical chess match between ex Barca teammates Guardiola & Koeman, City as expected dominated possession with Guardiola bravely opting for Leroy Sane at left wingback.

Meanwhile Koeaman shrewdly opted for a fiesty midfield dropping playmaker Davy Klaassen for the more energetic Tom Davies and relying on the pace of Dominic Calvert Lewin to break, often down City’s left in the space vacated by Sane.

Within 25 minutes both Davies and Morgan Schniederlin had picked up bookings, setting the tone for a feisty encounter. City’s first big chance came when Jordan Pickford saved a Nicolas Otamendi effort only to paw the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero who couldn’t finish clinically and Phil Jagielka tidied up.

City started to build momentum on the half hour mark and a De Bruyne break put Aguero through but Jagielka managed to keep him at bay, moments later David Silva struck a thunderous drive against the foot of the post. But Everton broke and an awful attempt at back tracking from Sane gave Calvert-Lewin space to pick out Rooney from the edge of the area, the Man United legend smacked the ball against the legs of Ederson and into the City net 0-1.

But just as the watching Gareth Southgate was preparing his Rooney recall speech for next week, Rooney gave the ball away in midfield and Silva forced a smart stop from Pickford.

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With a few minutes left in the  half City were preparing for a siege of the Everton box when Kyle Walker was harshly sent off for a second yellow. Walker backed into Calvert-Lewin, it was soft but not the smartest move from a man who’d been booked minutes earlier.

For the second half Guardiola brought on Raheem Sterling for the ineffective Gabriel Jesus. Despite their numerical disadvantage City gradually built momentum with Everton keeping them at arms length for the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Seeing his side dropping off too much Koeman took off Davies & Ashley Williams for the more dynamic Klaassen and record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson for his debut, Guardiola countered with the introduction of Danilo & Bernardo Silva.

For all the doubts over Ederson’s command of his penalty area his distribution is first class and a long clearance on 70 minutes ended in a clear sight of goal for Bernardo, 4 minutes later Sterling showed his usual composure in the box to blast over from 15 yards. Sterling almost made amends 2 minutes later with beautiful bended ball for Danilo who forced a great save from Pickford. Then On 82 minutes Sterling found his shooting range as the otherwise excellent Mason Colgate’s tame defensive header fell for Sterling who volleyed home from the edge of the box 1-1.

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On 88 minutes the heated temperature saw Schneidlerlin sent off for a challenge on Aguero. Earlier City players felt Calvert-Lewin had made a meal of the Waker challenge, if that was the case Aguero made a 5 course banquet of this clutching is leg theatrically ensuring the referee reached for his cards. As the minutes ticked down Everton almost got Calvert-Lewin clean through whilst a touch from Klaassen denied Silva a clear cut chance for City.

1-1 was ultimately a fair result that showcased City’s slick attacking play but raised other concerns for Guardiola. Ederson remains a worry in goal with City facing greater defensive examinations on the road. Another surprisingly is Aguero who continues to look short of his usual confidence in the box. One big plus for City remains the return to fitness of Kompany, Otamendi & Stones looked more secure with the club captain in the backline although the back 3 is clearly still a work in progress,  whilst Guardiola will be counting the days until Benjamin Mendy is fit to take over the left back position.

As for Everton the result confirms they are a coming force likely to challenge for the top 6 and a cup rather than the title itself. Rooney was magnetic in the first half but his powers faded in the second, the England recall debate will fill plenty of column inches this week although the pacey Calvert-Lewin might have made a stronger case for inclusion.

The fact City’s opening game lead to more talk about Guardiola’s chinos than anything that happened on the pitch spoke volumes about the routine nature of that win. This match was hardly a disaster for City but with with Mourinho’s thunderous start to the season across town there’s plenty for Pep to ponder.

 

 

 

 

 

Almost England Manager

The impossible job? Managers always say they don’t want to manage England but many have been called and very few turn it down. So which big names almost got the job and what might have been?

  • Brian Clough- 1977

When? -1977 following the shock resignation of his bitter rival Don Revie, Clough was interviewed (amongst a lengthy shortlist) of managers for the England job.brian-clough-obe_27.max-740x444_1

What went wrong?

He flunked the interview. Apparently on arriving at Lancaster Gate Clough patronised an elderly man by suggesting he should take the lift instead of the stairs- said man was on the interview panel! Clough later claimed in his biography he had nothing in common with anyone on the FA Panel bar Sir Matt Busby and it didn’t go well. Clough also claimed the interview was a charade.

It’s not a shock that the controversial manager struggled to find a rapport with the conservative FA Panel, but there were other issues too;

The timing wasn’t great for Clough, he’d taken Nottingham Forest up to the First Division and won it 5 years previous with Derby County but his greatest achievements with Forest hadn’t happened yet.

There was also that infamous 44 day stint at Leeds which long before ‘The Damned United’ was published brought into question his ability to handle star names- just imagine the rows he’d have had with the ever combustible Kevin Keegan! The references from Derby Chairman Sam Longson may also have made for interesting reading given their volatile relationship and bitter parting of the ways. The old school tie and blazers of Lancaster Gate would have been in for a rough ride.

What happened next?

The more diplomatic Ron Greenwood got the job, took England to 2 major tournaments but never won a knock out game. Clough went on to win the league with the previously little known Nottingham Forest in 1978 and then back to back European Cups and 4 league cups, picking up every management award in the process and staying at Forest until his retirement in 1993

What might have been?

In truth it would have ended in tears- The FA was largely run by the dictatorial Sir Harold Thompson who’d been instrumental in sacking Sir Alf and had Revie in his crosshairs before the manager walked. The FA was inflexible, difficult and even then in desperate need of reform so it’s hard to see how it would have worked with a renegade manager. Had he got the job Clough and Revie would likely have finally found something they agreed on- The FA was not fit for purpose.

As Revie privately admitted and Keegan has often said since the England of the ’70s simply lacked the players to succeed. Clough would have needed to survive in the role until the early ’80s to have a chance of success, when the likes of Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle & Trevor Francis emerged to complement veterans Keegan and Trevor Brooking. Assuming he’d brought longtime cohort Peter Taylor with him (who notably didn’t join him at Leeds) Clough’s best chance would have come at the 1982 World Cup where he’d probably have done better than Greenwood but anything beyond the semi finals would have been truly miraculous.

  • Jack Charlton

When?– 1977 (again) when the then Middlesborough manager wrote a ‘very nice letter to the FA’ and applied for the job. He never heard back.

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What went wrong?

He was probably deemed too inexperienced having only entered management 4 years earlier at ‘Boro, despite taking them to the First Division and a highly respectable 7th placed finish. Notably ‘Big’ Jack’s Centre back partner from the ’66 World Cup Final also applied and didn’t hear back.

He was also probably considered too close to Revie having spent 21 seasons at Leeds playing first with and then for the manager with whom the FA was now engaged in a bitter dispute, one that eventually lead to the FA boycotting Revie’s funeral in 1989.

And then there was the ‘Little Black Book’ incident. Charlton claimed in a 1970 TV interview he kept a little black notebook of all the players who’d committed bad fouls against him and on whom he would seek retribution (on the pitch) given the chance. A tabloid had taken exception to this because things like that never happen in football.

What happened next?

Snubbed by the FA Big Jack returned to club management where he continued to enjoy success with smaller clubs before getting the Republic of Ireland job in 1986. He got Ireland through qualification for the first time in their history making it to the Euro ’88 finals, where he exacted revenge on the FA by beating England 1-0 in the group opener. He went on to manager Ireland to back to back World Cup appearances in 1990 & 94 making it to the quarter finals and last 16 respectively. After losing out in a play off for Euro ’96 Charlton hung up his cap and went fishing.

What might have been?

Like Clough, Charlton was an outspoken manager who’d inevitably have run foul of the FA and Thompson before too long. His tactics with Ireland were hardly progressive but that might have worked well with England in the late ’70s but would not have won trophies.

However we wouldn’t have got beaten by Ireland at Euro ’88 and perhaps some of those suspiciously English sounding players in green would have been wearing the Three Lions. Big Jack was an excellent man manager who ringed the most out of the resources he had but it’s tough to argue he’d have done better than Bobby Robson.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson

When? Since his retirement in 2013 Sir Alex has talked more openly about his brush with the FA claiming fellow Scot Adam Crosier offered him the job in 2001 (following Kevin Keegan’s resignation.)

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What went wrong?

According to Ferguson he turned it down. He never showed any desire to leave United and as he’s said ‘He’d never have been allowed into Scotland again,’ a fair point.

He’d never have taken it, simple as that- Ferguson often derided the job as horrible and without the pull of national pride to the post, the absence of day to day working with players wouldn’t have sat well with him, the best the FA could have hoped for would have been an advisory role.

What happened next?

England appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson who took them to 3 straight quarterfinals whilst Ferguson stayed in Manchester won 7 more Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008, retiring after his final title in 2013.

What might have been?

Had he relented and taken the job, the FA of the millennium was a very different beast to the one Clough & Revie encountered. Ferguson would have been guaranteed the jobs for as long as he wanted it, if it had happened in 2001 it would have lasted until Euro 2004 at best.

Eriksson’s results with England in those tournaments were pretty good but Ferguson would probably have done better particularly adapting the team in 2004 after Rooney was injured in the quarter final.

But you have temper expectations with Ferguson’s record in the Champions League- 2 wins and 4 finals from 17 successive attempts, United were perennial quarter finalist but only intermittently better. He also managed Scotland to 4th place in an admittedly very tough group at Mexico ’86 having taken temporary charge following the death of Jock Stein.

One way in which he unquestionably would have moved England forward would have been the construction of St George’s Park.  On arriving at United in 1986 he insisted the clubs priority needed to be building the academy, United having become too dependant on buying players. That lead directly to the class of ’92 and the construction of United’s training facility at Carrington.

St George’s Park was originally envisaged in 2001, coincidentally the time Ferguson was in the FA’s sights. But it took until 2011 for construction to begin with the grand opening finally taking place in 2012 as the FA had perviously prioritised building the new Wembley. Ferguson would never have stood for that and England’s current plan would have been executed a decade earlier, that really would have opened up new possibilities.

  • Luiz Filipe Scolari

When?– Spring 2006, the FA decided they’d part ways with Eriksson after that summer’s World Cup and looked to the man who’d proved Erikksons nemesis in the previous 2 tournaments.

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What went wrong?

FA Boss Brian Barwick inadvertantly alerted the press by taking a commercial flight to meet Scolari in Lisbon to agree the deal. The story broke and Scolari discovered a mass of journalists camped outside his house, uncomfortable with the attention he declined to move forward and England started reviewing domestic candidates.

What happened next?

Big Phil’s Portugal inevitably beat England on penalties again, in the quarter finals again! He stayed on with Portugal for another 2 years guiding them to a slightly underwhelming quarter final loss to Germany. Before the tournament he announced he’d be leaving that summer to join Chelsea, many Portugal fans blamed the timing of the announcement for the teams early exit that summer. He endured a tough time at Stamford Bridge and was fired mid season with the Premier League title slipping out of sight. He eventually went back to managing Brazil, making it to the semi finals in 2014 before that walloping 7-1 loss to Germany.

What might have been?

Imaging what might have happened in the absence of Steve McClaren is a particularly low bar of expectation, Scolari would have cleared that by simply qualifying for Euro 2008. He’d have managed that and probably made some progress beyond the group, but England wouldn’t have been equipped to beat the likes of Spain or Holland. He’d have likely stayed until 2010 with a likely similar result to Fabio Capello albeit the players would have liked him more.

  • Jose Mourinho

When?– After Steve McClaren’s unceremonious failure in the Euro 2008 qualifiers the FA sounded out Mourinho who was available following his surprise sacking by Chelsea two months earlier.

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What went wrong?

Mourinho was initially interested but preferred a return to club football, when the rumours started to gather pace he received a backlash in his native Portugal and withdrew.

What happened next?

England appointed Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup campaign, the Italian masterminded a brilliant qualification run but suffered a lousy tournament in South Africa. Meanwhile Mourinho took the Inter Milan job in the summer of 2008 and guided them to the treble capped by the Champions League triumph in 2010. From there he went on to win the league in his second season at Real Madrid, second season on his return to Chelsea and is currently favourite to win it in his second season at Manchester United- anyone spot the pattern here?

What might have been?

A whole lot of trouble, when you take Mourinho you take him histrionics and pantomime villainy as part of the deal. The FA may have modernised but it’s hard to see them getting comfortable with all that.

He’d have stayed for 1 campaign- the 2010 World Cup, qualified (probably not as impressively as Capello) and then gone to the finals. Mourinho’s greater grasp of the English language and mentality would have made for a happier base than the infamous Camp Capello. Mourinho would probably have steered England to the top of their group (avoiding Germany) and on to a deeper run in the knock out phase, maybe even the Semi Finals where he usually takes his Champions League sides.

  • Harry Redknapp

When?- In early 2012 ‘arry Redknapp’s Tottenham were title contenders playing the most stylish football in the country, but he was also on trial in a tax fraud case with the Inland Revenue. On February 8th the result Redknapp 1-0 HMRC was confirmed at Southwark Crown Court. Redknapp was on his way back to Tottenham when the news broke that Fabio Capello had quit the England job after the FA went over his head to strip John Terry of the captaincy. Everyone put two and two together.

 

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What went wrong?

Unlike the others on this list the FA never made an approach for Redknapp instead turning to the more conservative Roy Hodgson. Some suggested he was blackballed by Trevor Brooking at the FA over his pushing Billy Bonds out of the West Ham job- neither rumour has ever been proved. Others suggested Redknapp’s colourful persona raised red flags with the FA or the FA didn’t fancy negotiating with Spurs’ Daniel Levy. However everyone agrees that Hodgson’s previous experience managing the Swiss national side was a factor in tipping the balance in his favour.

What happened next?

Redknapp’s Tottenham went into a late season slump end and missed out on the Champions League. Redknapp who appeared to have his head turned by the England speculation was blamed for the fall and fired. He resurfaced at QPR for an unsuccessful spell and briefly tasted international football with Jordan. He recently took charge of Birmingham City.

Hodgson took charge of England for Euro 2012 where a quarter final appearance represented a par score, he then oversaw a disasterous 2014 World Cup campaign and Euro 2016 exit to Iceland

What might have been?

Redknapp would have managed a similar campaign to Hodgson at Euro 2012 as the man parachuted in. He could’t have done any worse at the World Cup but I doubt he’d have got much further, Redknapp undoubtedly favoured veterans and would have certainly based his side around the likes of Terry, Cole, Rooney, Carrick & Crouch- a t’rffic bunch of lads no doubt but players England needed to move on from.

It’s difficult to see his old school management style fitting well with the FA’s new doctrine of Sports Science and attempts to intellectualise management and coaching. He’s also required extensive knee surgery in recent years that have kept him away from the game for extended spells; it would probably mean he’d have only stayed until 2014. All that being said he wouldn’t have got beat by Iceland.

  • Sam Allardyce

When? On 23rd July 2016 Sam Allardyce was appointed England Manager, a full decade after he was passed over for his dream job.

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What went wrong?

He had one too many ales and told undercover reporters how they could circumvent the FA’s rules on third party ownership of players, he also made off the cuff remarks about his peers and arranged some speaking engagements for a big fee.

What happened next?

Just 67 days on from his appointment Allardyce left his post by mutual consent. He reappeared later in the year at Crystal Palace guiding them to Premier League survival and maintaining his record of never being relegated. He then surprised everyone by retiring but has since said he’d be interested in a return to international management.

England meanwhile promoted Under 21s manager Gareth Southgate who is currently engaged in England’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

What might have been?

In qualification terms England would be very likely exactly where they are now, although Allardyce won the opening away game of the campaign it was a slightly fortuitous result and he would likely have picked up wins at home and draws on the road.

He raised eyebrows with his post match comments about an out of sorts Wayne Rooney stating it wasn’t his job to tell Wayne where to play. It smacked a lot of the crowbarring into the team of Rooney that cost Roy Hodgson at Euro 2016. Southgate by contrast dropped Rooney without losing the confidence of the player should he return to form.

Allardyce has always been a strong advocate of sports science and the FA stressed this fact on appointing him but how Big Sam would have fit with England’s DNA mission of developing more technically proficient players, God only knows! He famously insisted “This tippy-tappa is a load of bollocks!” which doesn’t give you much confidence he was the man to develop a more possession based style of play.

Whether or not Southgate is that man remains to be seen, he certainly seems more willing to promote youth but we have yet to see if he can translate it into a successful team.

England’s 10 greatest qualifiers

For all England’s tournament woes they remain Europe’s leading qualification experts- 1 defeat in their last 46 (and that was a dead rubber) is an enviable qualification record.  I’m counting down here their 10 best qualification performances I’ve witnessed;

10. England 3-0 Poland (Sep 1993/ World Cup 1994)

The game that almost saved Graham Taylor, after the infamous loss in Norway Taylor’s England needed a win at home to Poland to keep the campaign alive. Taylor looked to have finally found the winning formula with a strong physical side with Gascoigne providing the flair, Lee Sharpe the pace and Les Ferdinand the power upfront. And for one night they resembled a Jose Mourinho side, Ferdinand powered home a header after 5 minutes, Gascoigne scored a clever second and Stuart Pearce lashed home a free kick early in the second half. Sadly Gascoigne (not for the first time) picked up an untimely suspension and Ferdinand got injured meaning England arrived for the decisive game in Holland with Carlton Palmer back in the side and all that was left was for Taylor to utter his timeless catchphrase and our dreams of a summer in the States were over.

9. England 3-0 Scotland (Nov 2016/ World Cup 2018)

Currently the stand out performance from Gareth Southgate’s brief tenure with England. England started well and Daniel Sturbridge headed a poachers effort in mid way through the first half. Scotland rallied after the break and should have equalised when first James Forrest and then Robert Snodgrass missed presentable chances, moments later Adam Lallana headed in a second and it was game over. With the pressure off and Scotland disheartened England played some neat and tidy football finishing with 68% of possession and added a third through Gary Cahill. How Raheem Sterling missed from 2 yards out for a fourth is anyones guess, but a biggest win over Scotland in 4 decades isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself as England manager.

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8. England 3-0 Russia (Sep 2007/ Euro 2008)

Steve McClaren’s one good night as England manager- yes he did have one! England were playing catch up when Guus Hiddink’s talented Russian side rocked up at Wembley. With Rooney absent McClaren gave the much maligned Emile Heskey a recall hoping he could rekindle his old partnership with Michael Owen, it worked wonderfully well on the night. Heskey’s power and pace caused havoc in the Russian defence and Owen was at his predator best scoring twice in the opening half hour (his final goals for England). The Russians had a goal wrongly chalked off for handball and showed plenty of verve in attack, but always looked like conceding more and Rio Ferdinand drilled home a third late on. It was a performance of calm confidence and authority, qualities sadly lacking in Moscow the following month or against Croatia when a brolly entered England folklore.

7. England 3-1 Poland (Mar 1999/ Euro 2000)

Call it destiny, call it fate but England had an uncanny knack of drawing Poland in the 90s- in 5 consecutive qualifying campaigns the 2 countries were drawn together. This was Kevin Keegan’s first game as England manager and he quickly discovered he had a player similar to himself (only with red hair and no perm); Paul Scholes. Scholes gave a masterly display of attacking midfield play scoring twice in the opening 22 minutes. He completed the hat-trick in the second half and King Kev was up and running. Sadly under Keegan that was as good as it got, but when it did go well Scholes was always in the thick of it.

6. Switzerland 0-2 England (Sept 2014/ Euro 2016)

After the disastrous World Cup campaign of 2014, England arrived in Switzerland for their Euro 2016 opener expected to lose or at best salvage a draw. What followed was a masterclass in counter attacking football, with a new midfield triangle of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson & Fabian Delph controlling the game. In the second half Arsenal new boy Danny Welbeck got a deserved opener and as Switzerland pressed for an equaliser Welbeck sprinted forward for a stoppage time second. The most difficult fixture from a simple group negotiated England went on to post their only 10 wins from 10 qualifying campaign. The less said about the finals the better.

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5. Italy 0-0 England (Sep 1997/ World Cup 1998)

‘Hoddswallop’ was the verdict of The Sun after Glenn Hoddle’s first big qualifier ended in a 1-0 loss to Italy at Wembley. But slowly Hoddle rebuilt belief and England went on to win every other qualifier whilst the Italians suffered costly nil nil draws in Poland & Georgia, it all meant a draw from the final qualifier in Rome would send England to France and Italy the playoffs. England produced an excellent defensive performance largely on the back of a solid defensive trio of Adams-Campbell-Southgate and a busy midfield display from the tigerish pairing of Paul Ince & David Batty and Ian Wright harassing the Italian backline, the sort of thing you hope to see in a Champions League quarter final second leg (Man City take note!) Wright went for glory at the death, when the corner flag was a more logical option and Christian Vieri almost nicked it in injury time but England hung on for a deserved point and their World Cup tickets.

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4. England 5-1 Croatia (Sept 2009/ World Cup 2010)

After their hammering a year earlier in Zagreb a sombre Croatia showed up at Wembley 2 years on from their great triumph over the Wally in the Brolly. England needed a point to ensure qualification, Croatia were struggling to make the play offs. In the 8th minute England won a penalty which Lampard stroked away and when Gerrard headed home the second 10 minutes later it was clear this was to be an execution. Bilic cut a dejected figure on the sidelines as Capello’s England exacted vengeance for the humiliation of 2 years previous. Three more goals followed in the second half as England completed a flawless qualification (8 played, 8 won, 2 to play). Had the World Cup been played that autumn they may have made the final, how quickly things changed.

3. England 2-0 Turkey (Apr 2003/ Euro 2004)

Turkey were on a high entering this Euro qualifier having finished 3rd at the previous years World Cup. Tensions were high at The Stadium of Light following a series of controversial games for English club sides in Turkey (in particular against Galatasaray). Sven gave young forward Wayne Rooney his first competitive start but initially Turkey looked dangerous with a series of neat passing moves, but Rooney dropped deep and began causing their defence problems. In the second half England pushed the Turks deeper and deeper into their own half and got a richly deserved goal through superstitute Darius Vassell. Turkey lost their cool and gave away a late penalty, Beckham duly dispatched and when Gerrard (accidentally) pushed a Turkish player with his arm while celebrating he received a shove in the back to which he got the repost of Steven celebrating in the players face- that’ll learn ‘yer!

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2. Croatia 1-4 England (Sept 2008/ World Cup 2010)

Rarely have England turned up for a qualifier so unfancied. Croatia had done the double on them in the previous qualification campaign and had an imperious home record. But Croatia were soon put on the blackfoot by Theo Walcott, the Arsenal winger drilled a low shot from the right home to give England the half time lead. Croatia grew frustrated and a violent elbow to the face of Joe Cole saw them down to 10 men. England then simply hammered home their numeric advantage with Walcott adding a second, Rooney a brilliant third and despite pulling a goal back Croatia had no answer to Walcott  who duly completed his hat-trick. The final session of keep ball was reminiscent of that famous Leeds- Southampton game from the 70s, Croatia really didn’t know what day it was. Stunning.

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1. Germany 1-5 England (Sept 2001/ World Cup 2002)

Never any doubt this was number 1. After falling behind to Carstan Janker’s early strike England found their rhythm and a goalmouth melee saw a swift equaliser through Michael Owen. England were excellent throughout the first half but Germany almost went ahead on the stroke of halftime through Sebastian Deisler’s point blank effort he somehow smashed straight at David Seaman, England broke, won a corner, Gerrard hit a volley and the rest is history. With England ahead a pedestrian German side tried to dominate possession but were repeatedly caught out, Scholes & Beckham shredded the German backline and Owen smashed in 2 more, when Emile Heskey runs through your defence for the 5th you know you’ve been hammered. A memorable night and a result that genuinely shook the football world, qualifying never gets better than this (that late free kick against Greece a month later only made it sweeter.)

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Remembering the England managers: Kevin Keegan

It’s hard to believe it now but in 1999 Kevin Keegan’s appointment as England manager was a cause for national jubilation (not just in Newcastle). English Football had finally appointed its greatest hero to its biggest job. After the fractious ending of Glenn Hoddle’s reign here was the man to bring the nation together.

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It wasn’t just the cult of King Kev’ that got fans excited, Keegan’s management record to that point was outstanding. He’d taken Newcastle from the bottom of the second division to a whisker away from a Premier League title, more recently he’d turned Fulham around in both cases bringing a style of football rarely seen at either St James Park or Craven Cottage.

Almost everyone believed he could do it with England particularly given the quality of young players he had to work with; David Beckham, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Emile Heskey and Lee Bowyer. Keegan had always been a strong advocate of his ex England manager Don Revie, often stating England’s problems in the 70s were simply down to a lack of quality players, here there seemed evidence England might finally have the talent to succeed.

But those expecting a youthful reinvention of England were soon disappointed. It became clear very quickly Keegan favoured veterans. He retained Alan Shearer as captain having previously broken the World transfer record to sign him for Newcastle. The problem was by 1999 Shearer had lost a yard of pace and was embroiled in a difficult relationship with new Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit. Keegan also retained the spine of the Euro ’96 team- Davis Seaman, Tony Adams & Paul Ince all by now on the down slide of their careers. The youth of the side was again provided by Manchester United; right sided pair Gary Neville & Beckham continued their right wing/back partnership from club level in a 4-4-2 with right footed Phil Neville at left back and Paul Scholes playing attacking midfield.

The qualifying situation Keegan inherited was worrying. England had taken a poultry 4 points from their opening three Euro 2000 qualifiers. The group was headed by Sweden who’d beaten England in Stockholm and held a 2 point lead in the table with a game in hand, but Keegan projected his usual air of self confidence and insisted England would qualify.

In March 1999 Keegan strode out to the Wembley dugout chest puffed out for his first game as manager, ready to face England’s most familiar qualifying opponents; Poland. Scholes slid onto a through ball to put England 1 up after 12 minutes, 10 minutes later he headed home a Beckham cross and England were in charge. The Poles pulled a goal back before half time but England bossed the second half and Scholes completed his only England hat trick on 70 minutes to finish off the Poles in a 3-1 win.

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Keegan had to wait another 3 months for the biggest qualifier- a chance for revenge at home against Sweden. The Swedes arrived at Wembley holding a 100 percent record in the group.  Injuries dictated team selection and Keegan made the bizarre decision to include Tim Sherwood in his starting 11.

It was a turgid ill tempered match with Scholes making a predictably poor tackle and being sent off early in the second half. It ended 0-0 with England’s chances of winning the group disappearing down the Wembley tunnel with Scholes. It was now about finishing second and winning a play off.

Even finishing second started to look difficult when England drew their next qualifier later that week in Bulgaria.  When September came around England needed maximum points from their remaining 2 qualifiers. The first was easy- Luxembourg at home, the open goal was duly accepted and England won 6-0, leading to the regular event of an England qualifying campaign ending with the need to ‘get a result in Poland.’

The teams were level on points but crucially Poland had one more game to play whilst England’s campaign would end that night in Warsaw. Keegan went with tried and trusted a 4-4-2 with Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler partnering Shearer in attack and Fowler’s old pal Steve McManaman on the left. Poland played for the draw, England huffed and puffed but Fowler and Shearer weren’t a natural pairing and England struggled to create anything of note. In the 84th minute David Batty was red carded and Poland got more interested in winning but England held out for a 0-0.

England’s qualification rested on Poland losing their last game away to Sweden (who’d already qualified) and then getting it right in the playoffs, most fans consigned the campaign to failure and started thinking about the 2002 World Cup.

But it was at this point fate slipped Kevin Keegan an ace; Poland crashed 2-0 in Sweden, with Celtic’s Henrik Larsson injury time goal guaranteeing  England a place in the play off draw. At UEFA HQ the draw was made, the first team drawn from the pot of 8 was Scotland and there was something in inevitable about who was drawn to play them. It was an Auld Enemy clash to decide a place at Euro 2000 and all talk of 2002 was on hold, England suddenly expected.

The first leg would be held in Scotland, as an icon of English football Keegan made for a convenient target for the Scots as match day approached and Keegan seemed to revel in the atmosphere, for the first time he looked truly comfortable as England manager and it had the effect of taking the pressure away from his players.

Come the game Keegan made another odd selection decision- picking Sol Campbell at right back in the absence of Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp in the troublesome leftwing position.

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50,000 Scots crammed into Hampden Park baying for blood like an Alex Salmond wet dream. But Scottish hopes for a Braveheart inspired pitch battle were quickly muted.  A rangey cross from Campbell found Scholes who nipped in front of Colin Hendry and put England 1 up after 21 minutes. Despite their imbalanced looking side England outclassed Scotland, with the second goal arriving before half time; One Beckham cross, One Scholes header 2-0. England controlled the second half and rode off to Wembley with what looked like an unassailable 2 goal cushion.

Wembley was a sell out for the return match 4 days later, most went to Wembley in party spirits with the Scots already beaten for Keegan’s coronation as England’s saviour. Keegan made only 1 team change with Gareth Southgate replacing Martin Keown, the gamble of Campbell at righback had paid off and Keegan stayed with the winning formula from Hampden.

But Scotland hand’t read the script, they produced a stirring fightback and after Barry Ferguson had missed a gaping early chance, a Neil McCann cross found Don Hutchison and Scotland were back in it 2-1 (on aggregate) after 39 minutes. In the second half the Scots pushed for an equaliser, England looked rigid and unable to find a response sat further and further back, they almost paid for it- A close range Christian Dailly header ws brilliantly saved by Seaman and England just hung on for an aggregate win but a loss at Wembley to Scotland. It was an odd sobering night for England fans, qualification which looked lost a year earlier had been achieved but it had been a constant struggle

In truth the campaign had been awful with England only managing 3 wins in the group (2 against Luxembourg) 4 draws and that opening loss in Stockholm, indeed England finished 9 points adrift of Sweden. They’d only made the playoffs because Poland had blown it and when drawn against an unfancied Scotland they’d done it by the skin of their teeth.

It wasn’t neccasrily Keegan’s fault, Hoddle had dropped him in it with a lousy start, his options had been hugely debilitated by injuries and ill discipline, but there was little to suggest England would play the champagne football Keegan had previously brought to Newcastle.

But the most obvious deficiency Keegan had to wrestle with was the shocking lack of left sided options available to him. In the era before Ashley Cole but after Stuart Pearce (not that being 37 stopped Keegan calling him up!) England couldn’t produce a single left footed defender and few natural left wingers. Keegan often played Phil Neville at left back arguing he’s played their successfully for Manchester United, true but at United Neville had the marauding Ryan Giggs in front of him, he had no need to run the left corner and cross, with England he always had a right footed midfielder ahead of him meaning England leaned to the right more than a Donald Trump rally.

Keegan now had some respite through friendlies and time to prepare his team for the finals ahead, he also had a draw ceremony to attend. Given how England had sneaked into the tournament the seeding in the draw was low and fears were raised of a tough group, but again fortune favoured Keegan and England drew Germany, Romania & Portugal. Germany were a fading force whilst the Portuguese had a talented side but one with a reputation for under achievement, Romania had beaten England at the previous World Cup but were seen as an ageing side.

The friendly results were middling, Keegan chopped and changed without finding the combination to unlock the kind of football his club sides had often played. In the final friendly he opted to give youngsters Steven Gerrard & Gareth Barry their debuts. Gerrard impressed but more importantly the left footed Barry offered a possible solution to the left side issue, left footed and able to play at left back or left midfield Barry could have been the missing piece Keegan needed to complete his jigsaw.

Gerrard & Barry made the squad as did the recalled Steve McManaman (fresh from scoring in the Champions League final) and fit again Michael Owen. Owen had been the star of the previous World Cup campaign but often injured during the Euro qualification campaign. England were ready to roll.

England would start against Portugal or to give them their official title of the era Luis Figo’s Portugal.  Keegan again opted for Phil Neville at left back with McManaman on the left wing, alongside Scholes, Beckham, Owen & Shearer this was a very attack minded side with Seaman, Adams & Campbell & the Neville brothers only screened by the ageing Ince.

England got off to a perfect start, a 3rd minute Beckham cross was headed home by Scholes 1-0. Beckham was the best player on the pitch and 15 minutes later he crossed again for McManaman to volley home. 20 minutes gone 2-0 up what do you do? If you’re managed by Keegan you push men forward for a third. But with England in the ascendancy the ball broke to Figo who ran unchallenged through England’s half and blasted home from 25 yards, 2-1. From then on Portugal had the upper hand playing in a flexible 4-3-3 England were simply out numbered in midfield, on 37 minutes a fine team move saw Rui Costa float a perfect cross for Joao Pinto to head home 2-2 at half time.

During the break Keegan sent Peter Beardsley of his coaching staff out for the interview who gave the insightful soundbite “2-0 is often a dangerous lead to have.”  The second half saw England unable to regain their mojo and Portugal got the winner on 59 minutes when Nuno Gomes slid home 2-3. England had blown it, they were too open too cavalier and got caught out whilst on top and Keegan faced a storm of criticism.

Next up were Germany, the game was hugely hyped and the fixture inevitably was the one England fans had circled. But this was not the Germany of old or more specifically it was an Old Germany. Incredibly Lothar Matthaus was captain aged 39, elsewhere they had Liverpool pair Christian Ziege & Didi Hamann, the dour midfield duo Jens Jeremies & Mehmet Scholl, giant striker Carstan Janker who had a turning circle bigger than an oil tanker and the deceptively slow Ulf Kirsten.

Keegan made 2 team changes dropping McManaman for the more workmanlike Dennis Wise and replacing the injured Adams with club mate Martin Keown. The first half was tepid, England went close when Owen headed a Phil Neville cross from the edge of the box but little else of note happened.

On 53 minutes a Beckham free kick found Shearer on the left of the box who headed a low effort past Oliver Kahn 1-0. Germany fought back and Keegan perhaps learning from his mistake against Portugal dug his side in replacing Owen with Gerrard who marked the occasion with crunching tackle that left Hamann “screaming like a girl.’ Germany had little cutting edge and England had done it!

1728275_w2Germany were beaten and a draw from the Romania game would see them into the quarter finals. Keegan again had a change forced on him- Seaman got injured before the game and Nigel Martyn played in goal. Romania made a fast start and Christian Chivu headed home from close range after 22 minutes. England laboured but won a penalty which Shearer despatched on 41 minutes, then on the verge of halftime a break through the centre saw Owen burst forward and tap home a second 2-1 at the break.

England had looked ragged, struggling with their passing and lacking the fluency of the Romanians. They needed an improved performance in the second half but got a poor start when a weak Martyn clearance fell to Dorinel Muntaneu who lashed in an equaliser. Romania swept forward, England repelled with Martyn partly atoning for his error with a series of fine saves. There was little tactical advice from the sideline with Keegan instead encouraging his players to stand tall, it was a disjointed performance but the result was enough so long as nobody did something silly at the death, enter Phil Neville. The young fullback committed a clumsy tackle in the box and the referee pointed to the spot Ionel Ganea put away the penalty and England were out.

article-2028286-002B588500000258-365_634x411The knives were out and England’s poor tournament was ridiculed, Keegan took the brickbats and prepared for the new season. Shearer retired from international duty that summer depriving Keegan of his captain, he was replaced with Adams.

Preparing for England’s first game of the new campaign (a friendly against France) Keegan gave an interview saying he’d needed time after the Euros to lick his wounds and then gave an odd analogy to his current predicament saying “Sometimes a boxer gets off the canvas to fightback and land the knockout blow, I want to be that boxer’. The unfortunate thing with that analogy is of course more often than not a floored boxer gets up just to stumble around in a trance, take more punishment and fall flat on the canvas as the referee decides he’s had enough. And here were Germany rocking up at Wembley to start World Cup qualifying.

Despite a credible 1-1 draw with newly crowned World & European Champions France hopes for Keegan’s side heading into qualifying weren’t high. On the eve of the game Keegan made yet another surprise selection- picking defender Gareth Southgate as a defensive midfielder, Southgate had only played that position briefly in his early career at Crystal Palace but had spent the last 5 years as a centre half at Aston Villa.

Wembley was sold out as usual but this was more than a qualifier, it was Germany and it was the old ground’s final England game. The German’s were little changed from the summer encounter but did have a new coach in Rudi Voller and the sides kicked off in a light London drizzle.

Germany won a free kick 30 yards from goal, Hamann stepped up and lashed a low shot that skidded around the wet surface, was fluffed by Seaman and squirmed into the England net 0-1.

England responded with chances falling to Andy Cole & Captain Adams before half time but to no avail. In the second half Keegan brought on Barry and changed shape to nearer a 3-5-2 but the second half was a turgid affair with England pushing, Germany hanging in and occasionally breaking forward, a couple of long range efforts from Beckham were as close as England got, the game ended 0-1 and as Keegan trudged down the Wembley tunnel he was heckled by a small group of fans, he looked up clearly hurt by it and disappeared into the dressing room. Soon after FA chief Adam Crozier was called in and after short delay Keegan faced the press declaring he’d resigned as manager.

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In his resignation speech Keegan gave a heartfelt thanks to the FA & his players for their support and effort but also declared he felt he just wasn’t quite good enough for international management. It was a staggeringly honest assessment of his reign and one few managers would dare admit but he was probably correct in what he said.

I like most were relieved it was over and that’s the saddest thing about Keegan’s time with England. Most respected his brutal honesty and accepted England should move on without him although there was criticism that he was leaving 4 days ahead of England’s second qualifier in Finland. The most surprised person at Wembley that day was probably Howard Wilkinson who arrived Under 21s Manager and left in temporary charge of the senior side.

Soon after Crozier crossed the Rubicon (quite literally) in appointing Lazio boss Sven-Goran Eriksson as England’s first overseas manager. England would go on to qualify for the World Cup, beating Germany 5-1 in Munich 11 months later. Keegan resurfaced the following year at Manchester City, a great name of English football fallen on hard times, a typical Keegan project. He took them to promotion and into their new Stadium but crucially left before the Abu Dhabi billions rolled in. His most recent management stint was an ill advised return to Newcastle in 2008 where he fell out with Mike Ashley.

Looking back on Keegan’s time with England the biggest problem seemed to be his pushing square pegs into round holes; Campbell at right back, Neville & Redknapp on the left, Southgate in midfield to name a few.

But also there was a lack of a defined team shape, like a lot of England managers he correctly identified the best 11 players and simple put them out on the pitch. In Michael Cox’s recent book ‘The Mixer’ Cox reviewed Keegan’s time at Newcastle pointing out their problem in that title near miss of 1996 was the team lacked a defined shape and scheme and Keegan simply fitted it around the best 11 players, a particular problem when they signed Batty & ‘tino Asprilla. You could certainly see a similar pattern in his England tenure.

There were also problems with his coaching staff, Keegan wanted Arthur Cox as assistant  but the FA refused on the grounds of Cox’s age. Notably after Keegan left Crozier recruited top coaches Brian Kidd & Sammy Lee to work with the as yet unnamed new England Manager. A similar policy when Keegan was in charge would have helped, I can’t help thinking had he had a top line coach to help with his own short comings (Kidd or Ray Harford say) things might have been different.

In a recent interview Keegan gave some interesting insight into his management at Newcastle. On taking the job he noticed the training ground was run down and decrepit so he immediately persuaded Sir John Hall to invest £40k in having the dressing rooms retiled, cleaned and out dated equipment replaced over the weekend. It had the desired effect lifting spirits amongst the squad and Keegan used such incentives to motivate his players as he rebuilt the club.

It was a great trick at a run down Newcastle but not the sort of thing that works with top level players at Wembley (where I”m sure the floors have a nice polish). And of course at international level he didn’t have the fantasy football chequebook of Sir John to back him up. Whilst his shortcomings in tactics and team shape came into far sharper focus at international level.

Kevin Keegan the England player is a legend, arguably the best his country as ever produced, as a manager he said it himself he just wasn’t quite up to it. He did however achieve England’s only tournament victory over Germany since 1966 and for one night only We Loved it when we beat them! LOVED IT!!