Managing a fading star

As Gareth Southgate moves on from Wayne Rooney I’ve delved into the archives to look back at how other managers handled fading stars either easing them towards the door or trying to keep them in the room.

Bobby Robson & Kevin Keegan

When- 1982. Incoming England manager Bobby Robson felt it was time to put the nations favourite footballer out to pasture and decided not to select him for his first England squad.

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How did Kev take it?

Really badly. Neither The FA nor Robson told Keegan of the decision in advance so Keegan found out when the squad was announced. He gave an on the spot reporter an earful of his anger saying “What upset me is the way I heard about it. I mean a 10p phone call from the FA is not a lot to ask.” A few weeks earlier at St James Park, Robson had indicated to Keegan he would be in stating after the game “see you soon,” it’s fair to say Robson and the FA could have handled it a lot better. Meanwhile there was condemnation in Robson’s hometown of Newcastle over dropping the new Geordie Messiah, with hate mail sent to the new England Manager.

 

How did it work out

Not great, Robson stuck with his decision to leave 31 year old Keegan in the past but failed to qualify for Euro 84 despite a qualifying group that put ‘England on Easy Street,’ according to The Sun. It wasn’t the last case of hubris on the tabloid’s back page but nobody saw Preben Elkjaer and Denmark coming and they took the group whilst England stayed home.

From then until Italia ’90 Robson was a walking target for a critical press, an adversarial relationship that may just have started when the ever popular Keegan was dropped.

Wether Keegan would have made the difference is harder to say he was by that time playing in the Second Division with Newcastle before taking them to promotion and finally departing St James Park by helicopter after his final game just weeks before Euro ’84.

Graham Taylor & Gary Lineker

When- 1992. With 28 minutes left of the last group match of Euro ’92 England needed a goal to qualify for the semi finals. Taylor decided to take off Lineker and replace him with Alan Smith. Lineker had announced pre tournament he’d retire at the end of it meaning he’d never wear the Three Lions again if England went out.

Gary Lineker

How did Gary take it?

He gave a surprised look when his number was called but trotted off without complaint. After Taylor’s untimely death earlier this year Lineker tweeted his sadness at the his former manager’s passing, when one tweeting twit suggested Gary should have hated him Lineker gave a typically sensible response stating ‘Why? because he subbed me once! he made me captain and I’ll always be grateful for that.’

How did it work out

Badly- Smith didn’t get a decent shot off and Tomas Brolin scored late to send England packing and the turnip was born.

Glenn Hoddle & Paul Gascoigne 

When- 1998. With Gascoigne struggling for fitness and Hoddle needing to trim his World Cup squad to 23 the manager decided to put on a Kenny G record and calmly tell Gazza he was out.

How did Gazza take it?

Liam Gallagher style. Gazza went bezerk allegedly trashing Hoddle’s room before being lead away in tears.

How did it work out

In footballing terms Hoddle was almost certainly right. By 1998 Gazza was a shadow of his former self, and a move to Middlesborough aimed at cementing his World Cup place had yielded only 7 appearances. Then a late night session followed by a stop at a kebab shop made the back pages and Hoddle made his mind up.

Gazza 2

However Hoddle handled Gazza’s delicate psyche very poorly.  Clearly Gascoigne thought he could do anything and still get in the side and Hoddle should have managed him better. The decision to cut the Gazza-esque Matthew Le Tissier from the squad two weeks earlier suggests Hoddle just assumed Gascoigne would be going to France ’98 and had no contingency if things went pear shaped.

It’s hard to believe the whole episode didn’t have a negative impact on morale as the squad headed for France particularly amongst the senior players who’d played with Gascoigne for years. In Hindsight reprimanding the wayward star earlier and trying to pull him into line with a credible alternative in the background would have worked better.

Steve McClaren & David Beckham

When- 2006, Steve McClaren names his first England squad and omits David Beckham. It’s seen largely as a press friendly move, the hacks of Fleet Street having spent much of the previous two years insisting Beckham was passed it.

How did David take it?

Beckham took the snub with his usual good grace insisting he would work hard to get back into the managers plans. McClaren perhaps noting the Robson/ Keegan fall out notified Beckham in advance to explain his decision.

How did it work out

Badly- for McClaren. England’s results went downhill and the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign quickly unravelled, unsurprisingly the press were no longer saluting his decision to drop Becks.

McClaren didn’t help his cause by explaining in a BBC interview that he dropped Beckham because he was looking for more pace and direct running at opposing fullbacks  from the right wing. A fair point, but for the fact he then played Steven Gerrard on the right of midfield nullifying his own point.

McClaren back tracked and Beckham was recalled 6 months later a move widely seen as McClaren undermining his own authority. Beckham was by the resumption of qualifying playing for LA Galaxy and returned too late to save his beleaguered boss and England failed to make Euro 2008.

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Fabio Capello & David Beckham (again) 

When- 2008, When Fabio Capello took over from McClaren the first player the press asked about was Beckham (now aged 33 and playing in LA). Capello decided to retain Beckham but with a notable caveat- Beckham needed to be playing top-level football.

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How did David take it?

He spent the US offseason and start of the next season on loan at AC Milan. There was an irony to Beckham’s plight- Capello had been his manager at Real Madrid when Beckham was dropped by Real & England. Sensing his options in Europe being reduced to middle tier sides Beckham opted for his American adventure. Of course no sooner had he signed  a pre contract agreement with the Galaxy he was back in Capello’s team and he played a key role as the La Liga title followed 5 months later.  Now Capello wanted him back in Europe.

How did it work out

Pretty well, Beckham enjoyed a fruitful spell at the San Siro winning over a sceptical Milan fanbase and continuing his England career mainly as an impact substitute, providing calm ball retention as England looked to see out tight games.

It cost Beckham in LA with a chorus of boos upon his return to California but he soon saw out the storm and signed up for a second stint in Milan in the spring before the 2010 World Cup. This time disaster stuck, Beckham suffered a torn achilles and his World Cup dream together with his England career was over. Capello showing an unusually sympathetic streak brought Becks to South Africa in an unofficial capacity, not that it did England much good.

Roy Hodgson & Wayne Rooney

When- 2016 In the build up to the European Championships England traveled to a friendly in Germany without injured skipper Wayne Rooney. The ensuing 3-2 win inspired by new boys Kane, Alli & Dier got an excitable press suggesting England should move Rooney to the bench. Roy wasn’t having it.

How did Roy manage it?

He changed formation to try and accommodate Rooney, Kane, Alli and Vardy. First he tried a diamond with Rooney at the tip, Alli further back and Kane/ Vardy up front- this resulted in Vardy on the wing. He continued to tinker before deciding on 4-3-3 with Rooney and Alli together in midfield.

How did it work out

It showed promise in the Euro 2016 opener against Russia but got gradually worse, Alli was shunted further wide, Rooney played deep and gave the ball away and Kane was running on empty. We went out to Iceland and Hodgson’s decision to try square pegs in round wholes to accommodate Rooney was derided whilst the manager resigned on the spot.

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englandfootball11

Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)

One thought on “Managing a fading star”

  1. I remember all of these except the Kevin Keegan one. I think Rooney has done Southgate a massive favour by taking the decision out of his hands and retiring. After a few more goals at Everton there would have no doubt been calls to get him back in the squad which I suspect Gareth may have been too weak to resist.

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