Nowhere else but in the England managers job would there be speculation over the successor, around 10 months before their appointment.
This week the odds of Pep Guardiola becoming the third foreigner and first wearer of exquisite checked shirts to take on the poisoned chalice of world football shortened significantly, as rumours of the FA seeking a meeting with the Bayern boss, whose contract running out next summer makes it seemingly serendipitous that he will make the move from being beloved in Munich to being derided in London, Basingstoke, and all the major hubs of English football.
Guardiola was very evasive last week when questioned in his pre-match press conference about the role – so evasive he evaded the room entirely and walked out. An indication that he doesn’t want to express interest too early? He’s so flattered he doesn’t want us to see him blushing? Conspiracy theories shall abound. Or maybe he was just a bit miffed.
There’s no question Guardiola is a manager who has achieved a great deal in a very short amount of time. The only concern is whether he can be as good without the superb squad pre-existant – England are good, but would get a thumping off Bayern, and it would have been worse off Guardiola era Barca – and that if he would be able to build up a team without being able to bring in new players for millions of pounds.
If he did struggle, if he came in with his colossal reputation and didn’t immediately inspire England to become one of the world’s best teams – which, in all likelihood, he wouldn’t – then the pressure would instantly build from the press, the fans and within the FA. Guardiola is a very intelligent man, or so it seems. He won’t touch the England job, as he knows it won’t do him any favours or advance his career in any way, bar monetarily.
So who should be the next England manager? I think there is a strong English candidate. A man whose knowledge of the game is recognised as being superior to most young coaches in the modern English game. A proven winner in his career, and a mentality towards the national side that winning is the only option. International coaching experience. A popular and respected figure among fans and the media.
Gary Neville should be the next England manager.
He might not have the experience managing at club level, but has nearly four years on Hodgson’s coaching staff to back him up, plus two decades of playing under Sir Alex at Manchester United. You learn a thing or two in a situation like that. His punditry is one piece of evidence in that regard.
There are English managers who are doing well at club level, like Pardew, Monk and Howe, who deserve consideration. The last time someone was chosen on the basis of club form alone, however, we got Steve McLaren. I’m mostly annoyed about that because he was doing a decent job at Boro before he got thrown to the lions.
Neville knows the players, knows the pressure, and knows the game. He is the man born to manage England.