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Saturday, March 3, 2012

PREMIER REPORT

Redknapp may make England wait


LONDON — When Fabio Capello said he wanted to resign as England manager, David Bernstein, the chairman of the Football Association, said it was "best for the F.A." so the Italian's offer was one he could not refuse.

Christopher Davies

Thanks for the 2010 World Cup debacle and never bothering to speak acceptable English, don Fabio — arrivederci.

Capello was angry the F.A. had stripped John Terry of the captaincy without consulting him, but the division between the former manager and his ex-employers goes much deeper than that. They had long fallen out of love and Bernstein made no effort to keep Capello even though Euro 2012 was only four months away.

If Bernstein believed the inevitable chaos that would follow the manager's departure was better than sticking with Capello, it underlines that the only thing the two parties had in common was their opinion of each other.

Even with Capello at the helm, England's chances of success at Euro 2012 were minimal. England is now a car crash with no manager, no full-time captain, their best striker (Wayne Rooney) suspended for the opening two games, and their frailties exposed in the 3-2 defeat by Holland which never got out of third gear.

How the English would love its Euro opponents, France, Sweden and Ukraine, to be in such a mess.

Instead, France extended its unbeaten run by winning 2-1 in Germany, Sweden won 3-1 in Croatia and Ukraine triumphed 3-2 in Israel.

The F.A. appears to have two alternatives: stick with caretaker-manager Stuart Pearce for the Euros or wait until mid-May and go cap in hand to Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and ask for permission to speak to Harry Redknapp, realistically the only candidate.

Levy is one of football's toughest negotiators and would want every penny of compensation he can get for his manager, so talks with the F.A. are not likely to be concluded quickly.

Sir Trevor Brooking, one of four men charged with finding Capello's successor, said: "You could get someone parachuted in a few days before the finals."

He makes it sound so easy and logical I wonder why other countries have not thought of doing this.

England must announce its squad of 23 by May 31, five days after the penultimate pre-Euro friendly in Norway.

Appointing a manager two or three weeks before the start of a major finals is a recipe for failure. It also pre-supposes Redknapp agrees to leave an impressive Spurs side, a good bet to finish third, and which is in the F.A. Cup quarterfinals, to take over a national side which, barring a miracle, will be also-rans in Poland and Ukraine.

Managing England may be perceived as the best job in the country, but it helps if you have a half decent team.

Those who are not fully paid up members of the Redknapp fan club point out than in 29 years as a manager he has only won the F.A. Cup with Portsmouth, but he is the leading candidate in a field of one, which tells you something about how bare the English management cupboard is.

Pearce is out of his depth at the international level. There is nothing on his CV to inspire confidence that he can out-think Europe's finest tacticians and when he said he would be "available" to take charge of England at the finals, you can bet he had cleared it with the F.A. power brokers.

Pearce said he did not want the job full-time because he is too inexperienced, yet he is not too inexperienced to manage a team against Europe's elite.

What England needs is Euro 2013, not Euro 2012, but the clock is ticking.

Two-goal Arjen Robben gave a master class of pace and precision finishing and while the score line was close, the gap in class between England and Holland was immense.

Yes, it was England's first defeat in 15 months, Danny Wellbeck and Daniel Sturridge rightly earned praise, while new captain Scott Parker could not have given more to the cause, though the feeling remains his lack of pace and reckless tacking (eight yellow cards and one red this season) will be punished by the Euro referees.

In Joe Hart, England has a goalkeeper as good as any; Ashley Cole remains a class act at left-back and Phil Jones will soon establish himself as an outstanding ball-playing center-back.

On the downside, Steven Gerrard, who limped off after 33 minutes, has not completed a game for England since 2010, Gareth Barry is too slow at this level, and Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson remain inconsistent.

Strangely, Manchester United's best player this season, Michael Carrick, is out of favor.

The gut feeling is that the pragmatic Redknapp, who would not want to risk starting his England career with a Euro failure, will agree to take over next season, leaving England in the less than capable hands of Pearce this summer.

Having said that, I doubt if any manager could turn an average team into Euro contenders in such a short time.

* * *

WOULDN'T IT BE refreshing if a player admitted he changed clubs for money?

Most people change jobs because their new employers are offering more cash, but footballers seem reluctant to confirm their transfer was because another club made them a better offer.

Instead, we are spoon-fed clap-trap about "challenges."

Chris Samba, the former Blackburn defender, joined Russia's mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala last week and despite doubling his salary to £100,000 a week tried — make that failed — to convince us the move was not about money.

So what was it about, Chris?

It certainly wasn't the quality of life in Makhachkala.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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