If there’s something strange
And your country’s football’s no good
Who ya gonna call
Aah, you just have to love the English media. The day after the morning after the night before and the press corps are, like the FA, in complete disarray. They don’t know their arsenal’s from their elbows.
English football, even by its own low standards, has seen rock bottom and drilled straight through it. Roy Hodgson has gone – two years too late – and the wreckage of the Euro 2016 campaign is being surveyed. The players didn’t respect the manager and the supporters don’t respect the players. Despite pundits telling us that they are talented individuals, no-one believes them.
The media have already served notice that it wasn’t any of the Tottenham players fault. Jack Wilshere was culpable, Wayne Rooney ought to retire from international football and Joe Hart’s walking the plank at Manchester City. As opposed to being a plank in the England goal.
And it all misses the point. It was a collective failure with players, manager and coaching staff; they are all to blame. It’s no good the players bleating in the press that they didn’t understand Hodgson’s logic if they don’t raise it with the manager at the time. It simply confirms their spinelessness.
And don’t forget the Football Association, no matter how much you may want to do so. They oversaw the whole shambles and habitually fail to act on the goodwill of supporters. Root and branch reviews bring no new faces to the table with the professional game only interested if it increases their revenues, seemingly oblivious to the notion that a successful England team will do exactly that.
Nonetheless the xenophobia which media successfully tapped into during the recent EU Referendum surfaced on the back pages this morning. Claude Puel’s appointment as Southampton manager was, we are told, a slap in the face for British coaches. Why did the Saints not appoint a British coach?
Particularly Michael O’Neill, the Northern Ireland manager. No-one’s asked O’Neill if he wanted the job or had applied for it but the Euro 2016 campaign means he’s the best-qualified candidate. Apparently.
What’s Puel done, we’re asked, except fail at Lyon and everywhere since, we’re told. Except Nice last season but they are only a mid-table French side, it’s claimed, who fluked fourth in Ligue Un. Effectively third if you accept PSG will always win it. He hasn’t won a trophy in more than a decade, they sneered.
This remember is Southampton we’re talking about. Yes, that Southampton, the ones who finished sixth in the Premier League last season. And haven’t won a major trophy in half a century. Yup.
O’Neill may be a good candidate but with his previous jobs as Brechin and Shamrock Rovers boss, it might be that the Saints board thought he lacked top flight managerial experience. And a proven record of developing young players, something Puel has done in the past. With Southampton’s business model, those are key requisites.
It’s a chicken and egg, I understand that. How can you get the experience if you don’t get the job but no disrespect to O’Neill, he’s this weeks flavour of the month. The grumpy complaint that he’s likely to only get appointed a championship manager is right; Alan Stubbs took Hibs to third in Scotland and left to go to Rotherham.
Anyway, the point of all this? Well, Puel is derided for not winning a title in a dozen years, especially with Lyon who were France’s dominant club at the time he was there. So who do the hacks want as England manager? Arsène Wenger.
Yes, that Arsène Wenger, the one derided for not winning a Premier League title in a dozen years…
I wouldn’t argue with the appointment; it solves a couple of problems and might make the national team more palatable for some. The issue is expectations. If you think they are high at Arsenal, they are higher with England. You only have to look at the criticism of the set-up now to see that.
That said, Wenger is the sort of appointment the FA needs to make. Someone with a history of achievement, with a reputation to inspire players and who can change the functional footballing mentality. I don’t think, though, that he’d be able to improve Harry Kane’s set-pieces. You only have to look at our record on corners and free kicks to be unimpressed.
Nor would he make us any more defensively solid in the face of aerial bombardments; we’re not good at facing that type of pressure at Arsenal. But he would breath life into a tired Football Association. Every characteristic they want is ticked; if only he wasn’t one of those pesky Europeans.
The media are even prepared to suggest that the FA appoint an interim manager for the last twelve months of his contract. It’s not a bad idea although a nudge from Stan in the right direction…
It won’t happen. Wenger has rejected France previously and at his age, does he need the grief that comes with the England job? Even the media favourites such as Venables end up being hammered onto the cross and crucified in the back pages.
Still, at least it’s given ‘Arry a chance to remind everyone he’s still alive.
On the Arsenal front, Gonzalo Higuain has a £78m release clause and has stalled on a new deal with Napoli with that very clause being the reason. His agent – also his brother – reckons that 91 goals in 146 appearances is a good enough reason for the club to do that. Ahem.