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International Rationale

Wrong?

Following Fabio Capello’s resignation on Wednesday as England manager, the predictable questions sprang to mind: Who would succeed the Italian and what effect would this have on England’s Euro 2012 campaign?

In answering the first question, it seems that the majority would prefer Harry Redknapp as his successor. The fact there has been a longing for an Englishman to be at the helm for the last 3 years coupled with the Tottenham manager’s magnificent record at White Hart Lane, make him the people’s choice.

England’s success in Euro 2012 depends on the players who are available as well as the English FA appointing the man best suited to the job, regardless of his nationality.

However, will the FA be forced to consider an Englishman as a pre-requisite in their search for a new manager or will they opt for the best possible option as previously mentioned?

Realistically they will opt for the former, mainly to appease the supporters before an important international tournament like Euro 2012.

This though, begs a question which applies to the footballing world in general – Is a home-grown manager better suited to leading his nation than a foreign manager?

There are cases for both.

For England, Fabio Capello is statistically their best manager going by his win ratio – which is at 66% over 42 games.

However, the manager only led the England team at one international tournament where they failed to make it to the quarter finals.

Undoubtedly Capello failed to deal with off-field problems as well as an experienced manager should have, letting captaincy issues force him into an early exit.

The manager did however; qualify for two major tournaments while ushering in a new generation of English youth players creating a realistic sense of optimism before the Euro Championships in the summer.

There have been examples of foreign managers succeeding with national sides out with their native country.

South Korea in 2002 managed to reach the World Cup semi-finals under Guus Hiddink, with the Dutchman also leading Australia to their first World Cup in 32 years and Russia to the semi-finals in Euro 2008.

The similarly successful German national Otto Rehhagel led Greece to their greatest footballing success in 2004 when they lifted the European Championship in a surprise victory.

Greece defeated Portugal in the final of that tournament, a side led by Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari. This was Portugal’s only appearance in a major international final – the best performance in their history.

All were relative successes in their own right and led by a foreign manager, the countries achieved unparalleled results in their recent history.

Despite this success though, there is more reason to believe that foreign managers aren’t the way forward for international sides.

As mentioned, Capello failed to achieve any tangible success with England similar to the performance of Sven-Goran Eriksson years before him.

England’s greatest ever achievement was under the leadership of Alf Ramsay, when they won the 1966 World Cup in front of their own home support.

Furthermore, no teams have reached the final of any World Cup with a foreign manager since.

Vicente Del Bosque most recently led Spain to the World Cup in 2010, with Luis Aragones managing his countrymen to the 2008 Euro Championships.

Otto Rehhagel’s Euro 2004 win for Greece was the only exception – of a national team winning a major international tournament without a countryman leading the team – in the last 30 years.

These examples of triumph under native managers, lead to the conclusion that a foreign coach is not necessarily the best option when considering who the Football Association want to lead their team.

Looking to the future – in England’s case – Wayne Rooney highlighted Harry Redknapp as his choice to lead the national side. The striker stating ‘Got to be English to replace him (Capello), Harry Redknapp for me’.

There is no conclusive formula to implement when the search begins for a new international manager.

Ultimately, it should come down to who is the best available option but there is plenty of evidence to show that employing a man born in the same country as the players will reap the greatest rewards.

Culturally, the manager will understand the players as well as being able to immediately express his philosophy and ideas to the side in their own language.

Although a definitive rule would be unrealistic to expect, Football Associations should begin to move forward with the rational objective of producing home-grown managers who have the ability to lead their national team at major international tournaments.

A stadium full of English fans supporting a team of English players led by an English manager is surely the recipe for success, and the English FA – as well as any other FA looking to appoint a new manager – should make use of said recipe if they are to achieve anything as a football nation.

What’s your opinion? Get in touch through twitter – @beanroll or in the comment box below. Thanks for reading!

Right?

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Number 10.

Messi: Greatest Number 10 ever!

In football, 10 in squad number terms, is the number given to the player who embodies creativity, flamboyance, imagination and inspiration through their play.

 
The number has become synonymous with the position between midfield and attack, whether it be as a forward dropping deep, or a midfielder pushing on.
The number has been worn by great players in the past such as Diego Maradona, Pele, Zico, Michel Platini and Roberto Baggio as well as current greats such as Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Mesut Ozil, Wesley Sneijder, Clarence Seedorf and Francesco Totti.
All these players would be considered to be responsible for a large percentage of their team’s attacking play, providing the creative spark and imagination in the final third to unlock difficult defences. Their game is concentrated on dictating the play, as well as providing killer passes and smooth inter play around the opposition penalty box and goal. Primarily they are there to either score goals, or assist goals and players such as Maradona, Pele and Platini provided outstanding examples to current players such as Messi, Rooney and Sneijder who also play in the ‘Number 10’ position.
I believe that in order to create a great team, you first must employ a formation which accommodates a ‘number 10’ but also have a great player who plays in this position.
The ‘number 10’ is traditionally a player with very little defensive responsibility, conserving his fitness in order to make short sharp bursts of play when on the ball maximising his potential to cause damage when near the goal. This therefore, means that teams can sometimes play with what seems like a man down and sides who are playing on the counter attack or just to defend against constant attacking, can do without a ‘number 10’.
Formation is key for a ‘number 10’ so a system like 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 could be seen as the best to use when employing this creative player with the role of contributing to the majority of the teams attacking play.
Also the style of the teams play must be one which focuses on playing fast, attacking football with the ball remaining on the ground when in possession. Barcelona at the moment, are the prime example of a football team who play with a high tempo with slick and precise passing as well as quick movement, and through Lionel Messi they have a great player in the ‘number 10’ position who acts as the focal point of their attack.
Once the formation and style of play is correct, the team must have a player able to play in this position and have the required attributes to do it to a high standard.
As mentioned, Lionel Messi is a prime example in a magnificent team who play with a ‘number 10’ and equally as important is Wayne Rooney who contributes a great number of goals as well as assists in his Manchester United side.
Wesley Sneijder, who plays for Inter Milan, is the best example of a midfielder who operates between midfield and attack, a space often referred to as ‘in the hole’, his precise passing and ability to shoot with accuracy from outside of the box is a cornerstone of his play and contributes to his and Inter Milan’s success especially under Jose Mounrinho’s tenure as Inter manager.
It is evident that the ‘number 10’ still exists in the modern era, making a return from a sabbatical after the introduction of more defensive formations and the use of counter attacking at the top level in world football.
However, has it been lost in the high tempo, fast paced, sometimes kick and rush style used in the UK and specifically Scotland and can it be attributed to our decline in standard both domestically, continentally and internationally for our sides?

 
With Celtic and Rangers, both teams do not have a designated ‘number 10’ who operates ‘in the hole’ with Anthony Stokes an out and out striker, and John Fleck a midfielder who as of yet, doesn’t have the required level of ability to be the focal point of the Rangers team. For Scotland, our formation is a 4-3-3 which gives the side the chance to play a ‘number 10’ but our style of play is very much based on counter attacking and only the introduction of Barry Bannan could be seen as a positive step towards designating a ‘number 10’.
England, have definitely felt the effect of playing without a ‘number 10’ despite having Wayne Rooney in their squad. Capello has used Rooney as more of an out and out striker due to the absence of a goal scoring striker for the national side. However, with the emergence of Andy Carroll and Darren Bent, as well as Capello’s introduction of a 4-3-3 formation, England could yet find themselves with a player worthy of wearing the ‘number 10’ and taking the teams play to a level on a par with Germany(Ozil), Spain(Xavi or Iniesta) and Holland(Sneijder).

Therefore, the UK game must adapt to introduce more creative players capable of playing this role, as only Wayne Rooney represents the embodiment of this position and number that goes with it.
It cannot be doubted however, that the ‘number 10’ is embedded in our footballing history, due to the success and level of performance achieved by those who have worn it.
Long live the number 10, long live football!

Kids will win everything!

Young, Smalling, Jones and Cleverley after Community Shield win.

Writing from a Scottish perspective, it is easy to attribute our domestic games devastating decline to lack of money. Looking at the money spinning sponsorship that the English game has had, as well as the Spanish League and German League, it could be said that Scotland has become such a poor footballing nation on all levels due to the lack of real funding in our game.

However, is it all about finances, or has the recent revelation in the quality of youth players at top European clubs, put our own country’s youth system into damning perspective?

Celtic and Rangers, who are equipped with state of the art training facilities and youth academies, have only 7 and 10 home-grown players in their squads respectively.

Of these players, only James Forrest for Celtic and Jamie Ness, John Fleck, Gregg Wylde, Andy Little and Allan McGregor have made over 10 appearances for their club and could be considered regulars. A damning statistic considering the evident lack of money in Scottish football, and also where there is a growing trend that the Old Firm have consistently bought Scottish players from sides such as Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United. This trend disproves the point that Scottish youth players just aren’t good enough, but more that, at the big clubs especially, youth players just aren’t getting a chance despite the real lack of quality in the first teams already.

Focusing on Celtic and Rangers may be seen as an easy option, but being the most dominant teams in Scottish football, both clubs represent the best chance for our youth players to be tested against high class opposition domestically and more significantly in Europe too.

So, are our players just not good enough? Or are the managers at top level in Scotland too scared to take risks when promoting youth players to their squad?

 

There could be a case for the latter, and the examples of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and most significantly Manchester Utd could provide examples of how it doesn’t always take money, to achieve the best results.

There was much made of the ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’ statement by Alan Hansen when describing the chances of Manchester United’s golden generation lifting the Premiership title in 1995, but contrary to much of what Alan Hansen says, he was proved wrong and the side went on to lift that title, along with many more in the next 10 years.
Not many people predicted a second coming of a United ‘golden generation’ but from the start of this season, it appears to have happened.

Sir Alex Ferguson, following winning the championship last year as well as reaching the Champions League, has managed to strengthen his side with youthful acquisitions and the emergence of top class players from the youth system. The sign of a good manager is not resting on his laurels and Ferguson has done this time and time again, reaching a consistently high standard every time.

Firstly, the capture of Ashley Young was possibly the best of the summer, with the England midfielder beginning the season with 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. Secondly, Ferguson was able to sign highly rated England Under 21 international Phil Jones from Blackburn and David De Gea from Atletico Madrid, two players who will most definitely spend the best years of their career in Manchester.

Most significantly for United this season, the emergence of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling, although not directly from the youth system, has took the team’s game to a whole new level. Cleverley had managed to start all four of United’s Premier League games after his outstanding performance in the second half of the Community Shield, keeping Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher out the team and providing another creative spark in the last third for United. Sadly though, the midfielder was injured in the 5-0 United win at Bolton, an injury which he could have definitely done without.

Welbeck has also emerged from the shadows at Old Trafford, after a successful loan spell at Sunderland last year. Starting the first three games of United’s season before being injured, his electric pace, smart link up play and Cantona-esque composure in front of goal has led to two goals in three games, keeping Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov out the squad.

Both players have turned themselves in to Manchester United regulars, and the sooner they return from injury the stronger the team will get. However, one player who remains in the starting XI and a pivotal part of the squad is Chris Smalling.

Smalling, changing from centre back to right back, has took his game to a whole new level after a brilliant debut season with the champions and doesn’t look like stopping his outstanding form. Although signed from Fulham for £10million two summers ago, Ferguson has managed to trust Smalling on the biggest stage, and after an assured display, as well as a goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield, he has made the right back slot his own. This led to special praise from Ferguson and international manager Fabio Capello, who started the defender in his side’s latest qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales.

De Gea, Smalling and Jones will provide stability for United for many years to come and have already shown they can be relied upon in the absence of Ferdinand, Vidic and the retirement of Van Der Sar. Young, Cleverley, Welbeck as well as Hernandez and Rooney will be relied upon to create the attacking verve and flamboyancy that has always been attributed with Ferguson sides.

The most devastating thing for the rest of the Premier League though, is that this side is filled with relatively experienced young players such as Rooney, Anderson, Fletcher, Nani and Young, but with Cleverley, Welbeck, Jones, De Gea and Smalling added to the squad, the kids have every chance of dominating domestically as well as in Europe for years to come.

The emerging youthful side Ferguson has built has also managed to achieve United’s best start to a season under his tenure, a statistic which begs the question can they still move up a level? If so, Ferguson could find himself winning even more with his kids.

Success is most definitely now going to depend on producing high quality youth players, and teams such as Rangers and Celtic, with little money to spend, will have to follow the trend or see the terrible effect it will have on the quality of their play and success domestically and in Europe.