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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?

Tall-ish Order.

Scotland hoping for more goals against Spain.

Qualifying for Euro 2012 is an outcome which many Scottish fans may have seen as a tall order when the country was placed with superpowers Spain and notoriously difficult teams Czech Republic and Lithuania in their qualifying group, but on the eve of our penultimate qualifier against Lichtenstein, the nation could still achieve this tall order.

Sitting third in the group, with two away fixtures against Lichtenstein and then Spain, Scotland must take full points to have any hope of making the play-offs for the tournament. Couple two wins with a defeat for Czech Republic against Spain tonight and the play-offs is where the country will be, representing a real chance to reach a major international tournament for the first time since 1998. It is a difficult challenge but one which is achievable, so how will Scotland overcome such a challenge?

Firstly, Lichtenstein is a team which Scotland has beaten already in the qualifiers. Albeit unconvincingly, the 2-1 victory went some way to helping the Tartan Army get to this point in qualifying, so the players should approach Saturday’s game with a sense of confidence.

Secondly, arguably Scotland’s best performance of the campaign came in the narrow 3-2 defeat to Spain at Hampden, with only a late Fernando Llorente goal being the difference between the sides. Spain in Alicante is a totally different scenario however and it will take a superhuman performance from the team and the manager to get anything from the game.

Levein has been experimental in this campaign, as well as the friendly matches between qualifiers, and that sense of experiment will not be lost in the next two games. Saturday represents a chance for the manager to test his attacking arsenal without the inclusion of Darren Fletcher and Kenny Miller.

Arguably two of Scotlands best players, both are suffering from slight injuries meaning they won’t be risked in Lichtenstein, but there absence could be seen as a blessing in disguise for players such as David Goodwillie, Craig Mackail-Smith and Barry Bannan.

In Levein’s 4-5-1 formation, there is only space for one lone striker and Mackail-Smith, Goodwillie and possibly Steven Naismith are the only realistic options to lead the line. Scotland have been heavily reliant on Miller’s work rate and mobility in their counter attacking play in this qualifying campaign, and these three players have the capability to try and replicate Miller, albeit they may not have the nack of scoring in big games like the Cardiff striker does.

I wouldn’t be surprised however, if Levein opts for Mackail-Smith in a surprising move, with the Brighton striker in red hot form with 6 goals in 12 games. The 27 year old is the only striker demonstrating this season that he can score regularly, contributing to the reason I would pick him ahead of Goodwillie, despite the Blackburn striker being arguably a better player. That goal threat added to his high work rate and ability to run the channels means he could be an able deputy for Miller against Lichtenstein.

In all Scotland’s tussles’ with the big nations in the past 5 years, we have always had a creative talisman who has bare the brunt of producing the inspiration that Scotland fans crave. In games against France, Holland and Italy, James McFadden produced moments of magic which have been few and far between in this qualifying campaign, however in Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan Scotland now have a man capable of taking this mantle.

Bannan was the star man in Scotland’s win over Lithuania in September, taking on the majority of the creative responsibility before eventually setting up Naismith’s winner late in the game. From then on he has also managed to become a regular in Alex McLeish’s Aston Villa side, contributing to their terrific start.

He is undoubtedly talented, a pocket dynamo capable of the faintest of touches or the fiercest of shots, the closest we have to a player you will see in the Spain squad. Allowing him to express himself and influence games in the final third could prove the key in winning both games.

For the scepticists, Spain may be seen as a game where Scotland should sit in with 11 men behind the ball, soaking up pressure before hitting long balls in to the channels for Kenny Miller to chase down, but I see the game as more than that. Levein must approach the game unlike everyone else and look to attack Spain in their weakest area, which I feel is in defence.

Spain dominate games through keeping the ball and through that possession, world class attacking players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Torres and Pedro put teams to the sword, but in defence there are areas Scotland can exploit, if they are brave enough to go and attack them.

At left back, Spain have no recognised encumbent of this position after the demise of the reliable Joan Capdevila, so the right sided Alvaro Arbeloa may find himself there. At centre half, the partnership of Pique and Puyol is formidable, but one which has seen its best days. Finally, Sergio Ramos is a top quality right back, but again when defending can sometimes be rash and error prone.

I understand Scotland may not have all the players to exploit the weaknesses I see in the Spain squad, but with the dangerous players they have, it is up to Levein to allow them to attack Spain to try and achieve something, rather than sit in scared and wait for them to hurt us. A draw is simply not enough.

Scotland must first hope that Spain do them a favour on Friday night, then either have an off day or rest there stars for the final qualifier on Tuesday. It is time for the country to believe, hopefully providing the impetus and inspiration for the national team to pull off the unlikeliest of results.