Gareth Southgate to lead England to Russia. Really?
England Under-21 manager, Alan Shearer, David Moyes and Alan Pardew all candidates
Could Gareth Southgate replace Roy Hodgson as England manager? Photograph: Getty Images
The question for the Football Association now is whether Gareth Southgate really has the mix of expertise and experience that makes him the ideal candidate to replace Roy Hodgson – and unfortunately for the bookmakers’ favourite it is not particularly easy to make an overwhelming case on his behalf.
This is the problem facing the FA: none of the candidates on the betting-shop chalkboards can be classified as stand-out names. Southgate is well established in the FA and it certainly goes in his favour that he has a strong working relationship with the technical director, Dan Ashworth, who will have the final say alongside the chief executive, Martin Glenn.
Southgate is already based with Ashworth at St George’s Park and, naturally, his credentials are advanced by England’s Under-21s winning the Toulon tournament. Equally it is seven years since he managed in the Premier League and it would be generous in the extreme to argue that his CV makes him a natural fit. Middlesbrough, lest it be forgotten, were relegated under his management and a famously supportive chairman, Steve Gibson, sacked Southgate with the club fourth in the Championship.
The truth is that Ashworth has been monitoring possible candidates for several months and – let this be cleared up straight away – the list is not restricted to Englishmen. Ashworth has made it clear that the FA would consider what it calls “nationalised” candidates and by that he means non-English managers who have spent a long time working in the country.
José Mourinho would have been one had he not taken the Manchester United job. Brendan Rodgers would have had an outstanding chance had he not just been appointed by Celtic and Roberto Martínez also falls into the category. Martínez is available but his time at Everton deteriorated to a point that it will ultimately count against him. Another former Goodison manager, David Moyes, would also be keen. Again, though, his reputation has suffered during Hodgson’s time in charge.
“You have three groups: English, those with an affinity to England, and foreign,” Ashworth said recently.
“Going forward, I think we’d all agree in an ideal world it would be an English person but you don’t want to cut your nose off to spite your face and rule out certain people who might actually be the best person for the job. If they were born in a different country, would you really exclude them from the job? I don’t know. I personally would need a little more convincing with somebody who doesn’t speak English, or hasn’t worked in the Premier League or England, and who has no affinity to it at all.”
Some will advance a case for Sam Allardyce who, unlike many of the other candidates, has come off the back of an impressive season by keeping Sunderland in the Premier League. Eddie Howe’s star continues to be in the ascendant. Steve Bruce is another possibility but Alan Pardew would be unlikely. Alan Shearer is a more left-field option but the former England striker turned pundit plainly wants to be involved.
“I went to see the FA (after the departure of Fabio Capello) and said I wanted the job,” he said. “They just looked at me and said: ‘No, it’s a lack of experience.’ I said: ‘Well, you’ve hired experience, you pay them an absolute fortune, I could not have done any worse than those guys.’”
Shearer should probably prepare for more disappointment but it does show there will be no shortage of applicants. The problem with the England job is an old one. “It drives them all mad in the end,” as the great football writer Brian Glanville once noted.