Why we should all break the habits of a lifetime

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The Independent Football

The recent requirement to appoint a new England football coach and the subsequent appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson has brought out the best and the worst of everything to do with the game in this country.

The recent requirement to appoint a new England football coach and the subsequent appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson has brought out the best and the worst of everything to do with the game in this country.

The saga started when the "people's choice" for the position, Kevin Keegan, upped and left immediately after the home defeat against Germany in early October. To walk out, without giving the Football Association the time to manage the process and certainly without at least sleeping on the decision, was, to say the least, disappointing.

It automatically meant that the FA was having to go into a World Cup qualifying match just four days later, not only with a temporary coaching staff, but also having to manage the diverse opinions of the nation's football experts, whether they were in the media or on theterraces.

If ever the incoming coach needed reminding of the type of media coverage that his role would be subjected to, it became clear for all to see when the FA's chief executive, Adam Crozier, announced the method by which Kevin Keegan's successor would be identified.

His announcement of a selection committee of seven individuals from within the world of football led immediately to various forms of character assassination by most of the tabloid press. It was somewhat remarkable when all those seven men had done was to agree to air their views (it would be dangerous to say their knowledge) about whoever the key candidates may have been.

Apart from the suggestion that Terry Venables was apparently the only choice, indeed the popular choice (there are some extremely short memories around, given what had happened to the last popular choice a few days earlier), no one else appeared to be qualified or thought worthy of consideration.

Once it became known that it was possible that the new England coach might not even be English, you would have thought that the Third World War had broken out if one looked at the sports headlines. I am sure that supporters of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are not at this moment sitting there bemoaning the fact that their managers are not English.

Certainly, we at Leeds United are proud of our manager, David O'Leary, yet again someone who fails to qualify as an Englishman. Perhaps we should also remind ourselves that an English coach has never won the Premiership, and the last Englishman to win the "Premier" division was Howard Wilkinson in 1992.

Another important factor to consider before talking superficially about Sven Goran Eriksson is the fact that everyone at the FA felt strongly that we had to look at the long-term health of the English game.

Therefore planning for a successor was important. That is why younger coaches such as Peter Taylor, Brian Kidd and Steve McClaren plus others who may emerge in the coming years will be involved in the full England and Under-21 coaching set-up. The hope is that in this way they will provide natural successors the next time round.

Why, then, look overseas now? I believe that any English football fan wants to see a successful England football team. If in addressing this objective we need to appoint an overseas coach, should this really matter? As Adam Crozier has already said, when the seven-man panel sat down to discuss whom to appoint, it did not take long for a unanimous decision to be arrived at.

Whatever others think about our knowledge, such a level of agreement was seen as a good starting point. I, for one, am delighted, that we will be welcoming Sven Goran Eriksson to the England team. I will also be delighted that, when he takes up his appointment next July, some of the more outrageous comments now emanating from experienced football people, such as "he won't turn up", will be put in the dustbin of history.

Let us all unite for the sake of the game; let us break the habit of a lifetime and give Sven time to succeed; and most of all let us look forward to being proud once again of asuccessful England team.