13th December 2007, 10:26 AM
Football : England Manager Do's & Don'ts
Read this article online about some useful advice to England manager frontrunner Fabio Capello..
From The Times
December 13, 2007
Keep faith in your brilliance, donít bed the staff and youíll be all right
Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer
As Fabio Capello inches closer to the job of England head coach, he prepares for a voyage into the unknown. Running any national team is different from running a club and running the England team presents unique difficulties.
England has a growing reputation for eating football managers. Men have gone into the job with every possible credential Ė tough, unflappable, capable Ė and one by one they have ended up on the dining table.
Just as water finds the weak places in a landscape over the course of millennia, so the England job finds the weak places in a man; sometimes, in the case of the lately departed Steve McClaren, in a matter of months.
Recent history gives Capello sound advice. Alas, all the advice is negative, but it is as well to pay attention. For example, if you are approached by a sheikh who promises the earth, make your excuses and leave. Donít hang around outside Roman Abramovichís flat with the expression of a man visiting a prostitute. Keep your trousers on at all times when dealing with members of staff.
Itís also a good idea not to put your name to a CD of undemanding classical music.
There are many other obvious pitfalls. Donít write a book about your job and expect to keep it. If you have eccentric religious beliefs, donít tell The Times. Donít burst into tears in the lav Ė but I donít think Capello goes for the tears-and-Andrex jag. And, of course, donít take part in fly-on-the-wall documentaries and say things such as ď Quello non mi piace?Ē* Donít try to make the press like you. Thatís a mistake they all make. Any attempt to come across as a sympathetic person will fail. Worse, it makes you look like a creep. The idea that you are weak and contemptible passes on to the players; that weakens your authority, hence your ability to win matches. That is why, the longer you stay in the job, the more your authority is undermined and the harder it becomes to win matches.
Is the job genuinely impossible? Any job is impossible if the expectations of your employers are unrealistic. Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 and everybody believed that Britain would instantly become peaceful, green and happy. We thought we had elected Swampy. Blair failed our expectations, but they were not realistic in the first place.
The expectations for the England head coach are straightforward. He is supposed to win every match, friendlies included. If he loses any match because of a bad penalty decision, a miss by the striker, a howler from the goalkeeper, it is his fault. Being blamed is an important Ė perhaps the most important Ė part of the job.
The idea that every match must be won does not come from the press. The press, the less rational part in particular, are merely following the lead of the English public, which is aghast every time England fail to win a football match and is at once desperate for someone to blame. The England head coach must take that in his stride.
The important thing to avoid is getting your best player injured for a leading tournament. That happened at the past three, all metatarsals (David Beckham 2002, Wayne Rooney 2004 and 2006). And if it is an error to build your team around a single great player, it is an error made by most World Cup winning managers, Sir Alf Ramsey included. Luck matters.
The best advice for Capello, then, is to win every match. But because this is unlikely to happen, heíd better work out a contingency plan. That will involve unshakeable belief in himself and his abilities, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary and a genuine contempt for anyone who lacks such a belief.
Before the World Cup of 1966, Ramsey tried many combinations. He was criticised for their failures and was utterly unmoved. That, I think, is the point. That is the level of bloody-mindedness that Capello must aim for, something he has achieved in his club career, which is the best of signs. But only a sign, because this is a different challenge altogether.
Any competent coach should be able to get England to qualify for a leading tournament. A good coach can get England through to the knockout stage, perhaps even to the quarter-finals. It is after this that things get tricky.
The coach who is strong enough to take England past that point is, by definition, truly exceptional. That strength is what we pay £5 million a year for. To get to that point, Capello must work through two years in which his loyalty, his basic ability, his common sense and even his sanity will be questioned.
So here are three essential pieces of advice from recent history: 1) be bloody-minded; 2) keep the faith in your brilliance; 3) be lucky.
* Do I not like that?