Notepad on Life

May 6, 2010

Now McClaren shows England’s problem may not be its manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — - @ 5:43 am
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So Steve McClaren may not be such an idiot after all, coaching unfashionable FC Twente to its first Dutch championship and becoming flavour of the month among rudderless clubs across Europe as a result.

Not bad for someone who unceremoniously left the England manager’s post supposedly a broken man.

But then we’ve been here before. The one drawback to the media acclamation that accompanied Bobby Robson to the grave was the knowledge, among those of us old enough to remember, that some of it came from the same scribes who pilloried him in his time as England boss.

Routinely slaughtered in that post, he was strangely good enough to win four league titles in Holland and Portugal, European trophies with Barcelona and the highly-unfashonable Ipswich Town and the European Manager of the Year award in 1997.

Graham Taylor was famously lamabasted as a turnip during his time at the England helm, yet had shown himself no mug by taking Watford from the old Fourth Division to the First in five years before transforming a relegated Aston Villa side into First Division (now Premier League) runners-up in the space of two years.

And Sven-Goran Eriksson‘s two European titles, championships in both Italy and Portugal and a handful of domestic cups counted for nothing when he was routinely second-guessed by the nation while England boss.

Now while it’s true that international football may have been a bridge too far for the abilities of Taylor and McClaren, the latter’s success in Holland is yet another reminder that the relentless lambasting and ridicule afforded to those falling short of the mark as England manager is often wholly disproportionate to their abilities.

They are hostage to England’s inflated self-worth on the international stage, as are way too many of those who follow our national team from the terraces and the press box.

There is an unholy alliance at work in the mind of an England supporter, between our inventing the game and our sole World Cup triumph, in 1966. The latter validates the former, creating a ‘Chosen One’ mentality in too many English heads and, like the golfer who regards his one sub-100 round of the year as the real him, with all the 120s that surround it mere aberrations, we persist in the belief that a 44-year-old triumph is the real us, even though the balance of power in world football has long since shifted.

Not only does this widespread delusion place the coach of the national side under ludicrous, stifling scrutiny, it also fuels the belief that if he can’t get the job done with England, he can’t get it done at all. We’re England, for God’s sake, what on earth can the problem be…?

I have a theory that the reason Fabio Capello has so far thrived in this madhouse is that his nationality and cast-iron track record as a coach help him detach himself from the clamour of its inmates. Not all are blessed with such imperious aloofness, however and when the Italian decides he really doesn’t need the hassle anymore, I fear for his successor.

I have no doubt that the last few days have seen many England supporters asking each other how the hell a wanker like Steve McClaren can win the Dutch Championship. More depressingly, I can also imagine the same question doing the rounds among some of those who purport to write about football for a living.

Behold, the real villains of the piece.

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