The Last Word: It's time, gentlemen please...
The Football Association are in no hurry to appoint a new England manager. Big mistake – Euro 2012 is looming horribly large
England's match against Holland next week should have the glummest of nihilists wailing in despair at the absurd pointlessness of the occasion.
Of course, Stuart Pearce will see it differently. He will evoke words such as "passion" and "pride" and no doubt the players he selects will talk the good fight. But the stench of futility will fill that north London evening and that will seem rather surreal considering England have only three games to go before the European Championship and, more to the point, the players have only three games left to impress.
Impress who? Pearce, the stop-gap of all stop-gaps? Not even he can believe in his own candidature. Well, what about Harry Redknapp, the national manager in waiting? He's not even sure he'll go along. Harry is quite busy at Tottenham, you know. No, the only people who the players may feel obliged to impress will be the paying fans and to be frank, in this age of the megalomaniac multi-millionaire such a quaint notion will never catch on.
So on the Three Lions will run, four months away from the second-most important tournament in which they will play, with no direction, with no philosophy and with only the barest idea of what will be expected of them come June. And the Football Association's website has the cheek to try to lure fans by saying: "Watch England prepare to face Europe's best". Some way to prepare.
Granted, these circumstances aren't solely the fault of the FA. Fabio Capello is largely to blame for this mess – not that he cares. But the manner in which the FA are taking their time to replace the Italian is so detrimental. All that "We shall not rush" and "We have to find the right man" guff might sound statesmanlike, but it is only exacerbating this wretched state.
The problem is the FA are determined to think "long term", probably because, just like any organisation worthy of their paranoia, they don't want to be seen as knee-jerk. However, the truth is that when Fabio walked, their knees should have jerked. There were only 124 days until a major championship and time, clearly, was the FA's biggest enemy. The tournament awaiting in Poland and Ukraine should have been their priority, not some wistful future. In short, they had a job to ensure England had the best possible opportunity of winning a first trophy in 46 years.
Appointing a manager with 29 days to prepare will not ensure that England have their best possible opportunity of winning their first trophy in 46 years. But everyone will overlook this little fact if the FA do wait until the end of the season to secure Redknapp. The great wave of feelgood as the chirpy Cockney takes the stage will mask what, in actual fact, will be a complete farce.
In less than a butterfly's lifetime, Redknapp will have to settle on a squad of 23 players, develop and implement a coherent gameplan and, in general terms, try to create what his rival managers at the tournament will have taken an entire qualifying campaign to create. And that's before the John Terry question is considered. It is a gargantuan mission – if it isn't, we should genuinely question the importance of the role of the international manager.
But then maybe it is simply a case of assembling the best of England and saying: "Scottie, you win it for Stevie G and Stevie G, you pass it to Wazza and Wazza, you bang it in the net." Certain things David Bernstein said at the press conference a fortnight ago suggested the kingmakers don't believe there's much to occupying that throne, apart from sitting on one's backside. The FA chairman told the media that with only one match between February and May there is "not a huge amount for a manager to do".
It's four months to Euro 2012, for goodness sake. There damn well should be plenty for a manager to do.
And, of course, there is. Monitoring the form and mindsets of the players, finalising the details for the all-important training camps, undertaking extensive analysis of the opponents, perhaps even spending sleepless nights trying to formulate a strategy of how best to defuse the latest Terry timebomb. There should be a man in place to handle all this, and if not within a couple of weeks of the last bloke storming out, then certainly within the next month.
But no, it seems the FA are going to hang on for Redknapp, without much hope of success or a happy ending. Nobody is saying Redknapp isn't the most suitable candidate for the job, if the parameter is indeed set that the new man must be English. Yet while his credentials are suitable, his employment situation palpably isn't – not with the Euros so close.
For this reason, the FA should have looked elsewhere as soon as they realised Redknapp wouldn't leave Spurs immediately. They should have ridden the inevitable storm and gone to a proven campaigner like Guus Hiddink, someone with the ability to mould a team and devise a battle plan in the time remaining before England face France. But now Hiddink signs up with a Russian superclub and the chance is lost.
So it becomes ever more apparent the FA will rely on Redknapp in that race to beat the clock as well as Samir Nasri and Co. It is like they are giving up on the Euros and are committing the cardinal sin of shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Well, we're not going to win, so we may as well concentrate on Brazil 2014." And don't worry if an undercooked England are humiliated because the country will understand and not give 'Arry any 'assle.
Yeah, right. If you believe that, you've been living in a cave for the last four decades. The FA should wait no longer. It's not fair on Redknapp and it's not fair on England.
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