At this time of year, it kind of feels like patriotism is at its highest in recent years.
Whether that be based around politics, whether it be based around royalty or whether in this case, it be around football.
The England national team are currently out in France as they aim to make their mark on the highly-anticipated Euro 2016 tournament, looking to avoid disappointment and avoid the usual “Different year, same England” generalisations that seem to come all too often when we’re sent packing after yet another underwhelming campaign at a major competition.
However, this time around, it’s looking to be going well for England. Picking up five points from a possible nine in Group B, with a dramatic win against Wales tallied up alongside two frustrating draws against Slovakia and Russia, England have made it through to the knockout phases of the competition, as expected.
Now, The Three Lions face Iceland; a nation largely perceived as footballing minnows mixing it with the heavyweights and surprising the footballing world. Undoubtedly, this will be a tough test against a team which is build on a solid backline and teamwork, which has seen the Scandinavians go through to the knockout phase from Group F.
However, if England are to fall short against them, serious questions will be asked and the emotion of disappointment that supporters have felt over the last decade and beyond will be replaced with anger and frustration at their nation’s apparent inability to progress and beat so-called lesser footballing nations.
One key talking point that has come up all too frequently in the build-up to the competition and throughout the course of it so far has stemmed through one man – Roy Hodgson.
At any football club, or nation, the manager has to be the figurehead and he has to show himself as the catalyst of success. Has Roy Hodgson done this so far for England? He’s just not shown it enough.
After the World Cup in 2010, we all thought that the only way was up. Battered and bruised egos were withheld by the nation’s fans as Germany trounced us 4-1 in the first knockout round of the tournament as Fabio Capello, the second foreign coach to manage England, was relieved of his duties.
Then, West Brom boss Roy Hodgson was approached for the vacant post and he was never going to pass up the opportunity to manage his nation. However, most of us will be looking back on his appointment regretfully.
Since then, we’ve seen a whole host of frustrating incidents under his management. Whether it be from his penchant for certain players or underwhelming performances at major competitions – it’s not been too great.
Hodgson, just days ago, admitted that he didn’t really know what his strongest line-up was for this current batch of English talent but a question that will be largely asked is: “Did you ever really know?”
We’ve seen the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Mark Noble overlooked for players such as Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere, who haven’t really played enough to warrant such a position in the squad ahead of two players that have simply worked and grafted for their opportunities all season, but have been rewarded with absolutely nothing.
We’ve seen Raheem Sterling – a £50 million signing, under-performing, then picked ahead of the in-form Andros Townsend who has been the most prolific English winger in the game of late. Are these kind of decisions honestly going to take us to where we want to be?
Now, it’s all well and good saying that we need to replace Hodgson because, for me, we most definitely do. But, the question is, who with? Who would fit the FA’s morals and criteria to take over from Hodgson?
I’ll say one thing; they certainly aren’t British.
Of course, Alan Pardew is decent. Eddie Howe’s promising but not quite ready. Steve Bruce has been around a while. Is this honestly the standard we’re aiming for? We’d just be replacing mediocre for the same. We’re England – we can’t settle for average.
So, why don’t we branch out and look beyond our patriotic instincts to search a broader horizon to find the next England boss?
Yes, reservations will be held after England’s two foreign appointments. Sven-Göran Eriksson wasn’t catastrophic but he didn’t quite live up to the expectations with the squad he had available and, as for Fabio Capello, the less said the better.
I can’t help but feel that the modern game has passed Hodgson by, in a sense. Could we honestly cope with the fluency of Spain’s passing or the direct counter attacks from the likes of Italy? I don’t really think so.
We see so many foreign managers come to the Premier League and nurture younger talent and the prime example of this is current Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Now, this is not me saying that we should go all out and appoint Pochettino because it’s unrealistic and he has no reason to leave Spurs at the moment. However, the list seems endless as in regards to the amount of English players he has developed.
Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Nathaniel Clyne all flourished under his management at Southampton. It’s no coincidence.
Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have all come on leaps and bounds under him at Tottenham. It’s no coincidence, again.
So, just what is it with these foreign coaches that gets certain players fulfilling their potential and showing themselves as some of Europe’s biggest talents? I’d say a lot of it is down to man management and tactics that have kept up with what the modern game of football is asking of them.
There seems to be something about some managers that just gets their players going and gets them coming out firing on all cylinders. Whether that be something worked on in training or a quick word in the ear before the start of a match – something happens in these teams.
The tactical know-how and approach to football seem to be a different ball game for some managers in comparison to the likes of Hodgson.
This isn’t to say that appointing another English manager would be a tragedy; it wouldn’t be. However, before making a knee-jerk appointment for the likes of Alan Pardew, no disrespect to him, we need to be prepared to not settle for average and really look to take this squad to the next level ahead of the coming years.
We’ve got one of the best squads in world football with some of the most incredible young prospects at our disposal – some of which are sitting in the Under-21’s waiting for their opportunity.
The high-pressing, offensive style of play that is occupied by the current batch of talent we have at our disposal that has been implemented through tactical resurgences at club level could take us to new heights, so why do we seem to fail?
All we ask of this squad is to see Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane up top and players in their natural positions – is that too much to ask?
After all, the manager is the catalyst and, to be quite honest, I don’t see how we’ve got the right one to take this incredible footballing nation forward.