There is an unwritten rule in football management which states that any club foolish enough to go through three managers in one season is likely to be relegated.
Such managerial instability not guaranteed to provide the catalyst for abject failure – Watford somehow managed to win promotion to the Premier League with four managers taking charge for at least one game during the 2013-14 season – but chaos and upheaval, both in a tactical and personality sense, does little to create the culture required to breed consistency and success.
It does, however, lead to a lack of accountability, enabling players and directors to point to a ready-made excuse for under-performance.
New manager, new formation, or new manager, different players. Out with the old and in with the new.
Whether or not the Football Association regard the England manager’s position as a special case – their ruthless parting with Sam Allardyce last month in order to protect the organisation’s reputation suggests that the job comes with the kind of moral test more in keeping with the Archbishop of Canterbury – it is clear that ongoing uncertainty and drift surround the future of Gareth Southgate and / or his successor cannot ultimately be a positive thing for the team on the pitch.
When Roy Hodgson was parachuted into the England job in May 2012, just a month before Euro 2012, following Fabio Capello’s resignation, the FA had no option but make the emergency appointment, yet Hodgson was handed a group of players forged by Capello and had no time to do little other than guide the team through four games in Poland and Ukraine.
The situation with Southgate is different. When England kick-off against Malta at Wembley in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier, the opening fixture of Russia 2018 will still be 614 days away.
614 days. It sounds a long time, and it is probably longer than most managers get in jobs nowadays, but England have already back-tracked to square one following Allardyce’s departure and the slate has been wiped clean once again ahead of Southgate’s debut as interim-manager.
England manager contenders
England manager contenders
1/6 Gareth Southgate - 6/4
Highly thought of by the decision-makers at the Football Association, the former Middlesbrough boss was brought into the fold to coach the Under-21s with an eye on future progression. Faltered at last year's Under-21 European Championship but led the team to victory at the Toulon tournament in the summer. Had no interest in succeeding Hodgson but takes charge for England's next four matches against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain while the FA looks for a permanent appointment.
2/6 Steve Bruce - 2/1
The former Manchester United defender was interviewed in the summer about the vacant England manager's job. Just days after speaking to the FA, Bruce decided to call time on his spell at Hull, where he had become the most successful manager in the club's history. He remains out of work.
3/6 Eddie Howe - 8/1
A smart, erudite and tactically-savvy coach who, at 38, looks to have a bright future at the top of the game. The manager has flourished at Bournemouth and only last week described coaching England as the "ultimate" job. "I would never say no," Howe said.
4/6 Alan Pardew - 8/1
Seemed to be a new man after swapping Newcastle for Crystal Palace and some fine early-season results saw him seriously linked with the England job for the first time in his career. Reached the FA Cup final but league results tailed off badly. A slow start to this campaign has been followed by three successive Premier League victories.
5/6 Jurgen Klinsmann - 10/1
The former Tottenham striker has managerial experience at international level, having been in charge of the United States for almost five years and Germany before that. America fell to a semi-final Copa America exit in the summer while Klinsmann guided Germany to the last-four stage at the 2006 World Cup.
6/6 Gary Neville - 25/1
Seemed a heavy favourite to progress from his role as Hodgson's assistant until his ill-advised stint with Valencia saw his stock plummet. It may yet be decided that was a case of the wrong job but the right man. Out of coaching since exiting with Hodgson during the summer, the videos of Allardyce appear to show him saying Neville was the "wrong influence" on his predecessor.
The former Middlesbrough manager, elevated from his role in charge of England Under-21s, will take charge for the next four fixtures, culminating in the Wembley friendly against Spain on November 15.
From that point on, the England manager’s office at St George’s Park will be mothballed until the new man arrives to clear up the mess caused by Allardyce’s sudden exit.
The FA will not begin the recruitment process until after the Spain game, which if that is to be believed, is incredibly naïve, complacent and perhaps even arrogant.
Having only gone through the recruitment process three months ago, when settling on Allardyce as Hodgson’s replacement, do FA chief executive Martin Glenn and chairman Greg Clarke really need to rip it up and start again in order to identify the candidate who was either missed or deemed not good enough to deny Allardyce the job in July?
Clarke gets a free pass on this, having replaced Greg Dyke in the role after Allardyce’s appointment, but Glenn is coming across as the type of guy who cannot decide which pair of shoes to wear in the morning.
Maybe the plan is to wait for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal contract to run down next summer, or hope to tempt Brendan Rodgers to cut short his sojourn with Celtic, but Rome is burning and Glenn’s determination to shelve the recruitment process for at least five weeks suggests he is doing his best impression of Emperor Nero.
What England need at this moment is the certainty of continuity and that can only come with Southgate being given the job on a permanent basis until the culmination of Russia 2018.
The team needs structure and organisation, it needs re-shaping and preparing for a major tournament, and that cannot happen properly if the manager at the World Cup – if England actually get there – does not take charge of the team until next March at the very earliest.
Decisions need to be made about Wayne Rooney’s place in the team – does he keep it, and if so, where?
Will Marcus Rashford be given the chance to become a regular up-front or down the right flank? Is Joe Hart the best choice in goal or should he be replaced?
Has the time come to build the back-four around John Stones and, if it has, surely time is required for the Manchester City defender to find the right partner and build an understanding with him?
Southgate can lay all the groundwork now, but if he is not deemed the right choice to take the job in the long-term, the new man could have differing opinions on all of the above and start again, perhaps just a year from the World Cup.
England are in a state of flux and allowing that to continue is a recipe for failure.
It could be a recipe for disaster if the likes of Slovenia or Scotland take advantage of the uncertainty over the next month by claiming valuable points from England which enable them to take charge of Group F.
Southgate is by no means the obvious choice and it is debatable as to whether he is the best choice, but the 46-year-old is hardly in a race with the stellar names of management.
So the FA should forego the indulgence of a recruitment process for a job which is, sad to say, currently on a par with managing Aston Villa in terms of its appeal to the A-Listers, and give it to Southgate.
If nothing else, it would take away one of the excuses should England return from Russia with nothing to show for their efforts once again.Reuse content