After an abysmal Euro 2016, where England somehow found a way to reach a new all-time low, it looked like the future was bright when Sam Allardyce was appointed as Roy Hodgson’s successor.
Big Sam got off to be the perfect possible start, albeit through a late Adam Lallana goal in a 1-0 win away to Slovakia in their opening game of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group. You could see how much the job meant to him as he celebrated that last-minute goal from the touchline. Sadly for Allardyce and England fans, that partnership was short-lived and the hunt is on again for a new manager.
Gareth Southgate has been placed in temporary charge for the next four games and if England are successful during that spell, there will be calls to give him the job on a full-time basis. That would be a very fair deal if three of the games he is in charge for weren’t against Malta, Slovenia and Scotland. To put it into perspective, if you were betting on football on the match market for the Malta game, you would be given odds of 1/50 on an England win. Those odds will be slightly bigger against Slovenia and Scotland, however, the three Lions will be odds-on for maximum points in both ties.
The FA would no doubt be absolutely delighted to hand Southgate the reins on a permanent basis. He speaks well, looks the part in a nice suit and is unlikely to cause the FA any embarrassment as has been the case with several England managers over the last couple of decades.
The problem with Southgate is his CV – it does not merit being handed the England job. If he is the best man available right now, the Three Lions are in serious trouble. Southgate has only once managed a club in England. He took over from Steve McClaren at Middlesbrough in 2006 but was then sacked in 2009 after his side fell out of the Premier League into the Championship. Since then, the former England defender has worked under the FA in a number of roles including the Head of Elite Development and as the under-21 manager.
If England want to strive for excellence on the field and end their 50-year wait for a major trophy, they must strive for excellence off the field too. Sadly Southgate does not inspire much confidence and would unlikely lift the changing room either.
The best choice England have right now to end what has been a very disappointing year is to secure the services of Eddie Howe. The young Englishman has done an excellent job with Bournemouth where he has brought them up from the lower leagues into the Premier League.
Despite his young age and lack of experience, Howe is a fearless manager. He prepares his team to win the game whether he is playing Manchester United or a side in League Two.
Whatever happens this year, Howe is clearly an England manager for the future. The one question mark the FA may have is his age. They may feel the job has come too soon for him in his managerial career. However, the man to make that call is Howe himself, the FA should trust his view.
If Howe is appointed sometime in the next couple of months, he has ample time to prepare a squad that can be competitive in Russia in 2018. That would give him enough time to build the trust of the players and find a system which can give England the best chance for future success.