It seems that new England managers are a rare deflationary commodity. It was only four months ago that the Football Association’s chief executive Martin Glenn was sitting before us in a meeting room at Chantilly, north of Paris, observing that his organisation needed to be “in the zone of what the world champions are paying” in their search for a successor to Roy Hodgson, whom he’d just fired. At the time, £4m seemed to be the benchmark figure, though that has tumbled to £1.5m plus bonuses for Gareth Southgate, who is to become the 15th permanent appointee to the position.
Some may argue that the lower number reflects the diminution of the stock of England, who have been among the biggest payers in world football since Sven Goran Eriksson arrived on a salary of £4.5m in 2001. Yet this development just might play a part in locating some affection for the national football team.
At a hearing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee a few weeks back, the MP Nigel Huddleston asked why it should be so “inconceivable” that the next England manager could command a salary of 10 or 20 per cent less than Sam Allardyce. “There’s a kudos and respect that goes beyond money,” Huddleston said. If candidates wanted parity with the world’s best then they “probably don’t have the character for the role,” he added. “The salary [under discussion] is beyond the comprehension of my constituents.”
Those of us who work in the space sport occupies are so steeped in the Monopoly numbers that the Mid Worcestershire MP’s comments seemed wildly idealistic, though now that we have seen Southgate at close quarters – speaking with impressive self-deprecation and lack of ego this past month – the notion of a less stratospheric salary suddenly seems extremely appealing.
England are not one of the big players in world football and the appointment of a 46-year-old who doesn’t wear a wrist watch the size of a brick and will earn only twice Eddie Jones’ £464,000 annual salary removes some of the hubris that has seemed to go with the turf. England might actually feel a little more in touch.
In a very real sense, the observations on “character” by Huddleston were astute, because for the procession of well remunerated England bosses, multi-millions never seemed enough. Eriksson was romanced by the Fake Sheikh, Allardyce was romanced by couple of Daily Telegraph reporters offering him a fortune for a “meet and greet” and £14,000-a-day Fabio Capello didn’t even need a honey-trap to seek additional earnings from his ‘Capello Index’ – which ranked his own players before the 2010 World Cup.
Southgate is intelligent to see how that kind of avarice might be perceived from the outside looking in. He is self-evidently not consumed with the greed which devours football. Though millions would prefer a national team managed by Arsène Wenger, with celebrity status and celebrity salary, Southgate’s innate desire to make England great again will be stronger. In a sense, he has the “character” Wenger lacks.
He also has a distance to travel to convince many he can mend England. Quiet men have certainly flourished at the helm of great sides – none less than Sir Alf Ramsay; Bob Paisley, the most successful of them all by the barometer of trophies per season; more recently Vicente del Bosque, Claudio Ranieiri and Carlo Ancelotti.
Yet there is a prevalent sense that arrogance of the Eddie Jones kind is a necessity. With arrogance comes that preening, post-colonial assumption that England are better than they really are, when a little modesty would help. Sometimes less is more - and that includes the pay cheque.Reuse content