I still believe the FA must persuade O'Neill to do the England job

Last updated at 21:32 24 November 2007

Only one English manager

from the Premier League has

had Champions League experience

in the past 10 years — me.

I should be proud of the

fact, but I actually find it quite

depressing at a time when we are looking

for a good,experienced man to lead

our country into the next World Cup.

Being England manager is like being

the Prime Minister of football. We

need a leader and shrinking violets

need not apply. My instinct would be

to try to find the best Englishman

around to succeed Steve McClaren.

Yet it is impossible to see one whose CV

remotely begins to compare with men

such as Fabio Capello, Guus Hiddink,

Frank Rijkaard and Jose Mourinho.

We were all shocked when Sven

Goran Eriksson came here from Italy

to take our game into the 21st century.

It was sold as a once-only emergency

measure, but the reality is, seven years

on, we're no closer to having a homegrown

manager with the qualifications

to do the job.

It's a long way from the days when

the Football Association had Brian

Clough, Don Revie, Bob Paisley, Bill

Nicholson and Ron Greenwood to

choose from.

Martin O'Neill is viewed as an 'honorary

Englishman' and I've not really

got a problem with that. The Ulsterman

has spent virtually his whole adult

life here and knows our game and players

as well as anyone. Brian Barwick's

first call should be to check out if he

wants the job. But judging by his statement

on Friday, the answer is No.

So what do we do then? With great

reluctance, it's my view that we might

have to look abroad again. To Mourinho,

to Capello. Men we know can

lead from the front and extract the best

out of top players.

It's a crying shame, but that's

where it's at. Steve Coppell, Harry

Redknapp,Sam Allardyce and Alan

Curbishley have never been given a

chance to prove themselves at the

highest level. Alan Shearer's time will

come, but it can't be yet. Being

England manager should be seen as a

final job for someone with experience,

not a first job.

And while everyone else debates

whether Capello is better than Mourinho,

or Hiddink tops Luiz Felipe Scolari,

I hope the FA's 'root-and-branch'

appraisal into our game looks seriously

at the lack of English coaches and managers

in our game, from top to bottom.

Until we have top-quality English

coaches, we will never have enough

top-quality English players to succeed

on the international stage. People who

blame foreign players in our league for

what has happened are only half-right.

Of course we want more English players

in the Premier League, but that's

not the primary cause of our failings at

international level. Our top players

actually benefit from having foreign

stars here.Wayne Rooney is a far better

player for having trained and played

with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos

Tevez. Theo Walcott will have developed

by learning from Thierry Henry

and Alex Hleb.

Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and

Rafa Benitez would prefer to work with a 16-year-old English boy rather

than gamble on a teenager from

abroad who might not settle.

The problem is our 16-year-olds are

not good enough,not because of a lack

of natural talent but because of coaching

and managing. Which takes us

back to the national team.

I've never been more confident about

a football match than going into Wembley

on Wednesday. I wasn't even

thinking about a draw against Croatia,

I was that certain we would win.

At 2-2, I was even more sure we'd be

going to Euro 2008 because Croatia at

that stage would have settled for a

point. But we gave them a second wind

and once they scored again, it was all

over. If we'd had our first-choice

defence, we would have qualified.


we can't have too many complaints

over the 12 games. McClaren, who I

have backed from the start and who I

believe will go on to be a very good

manager, will have regrets now about

picking Scott Carson. You can't go into

a game of that importance with a very

inexperienced goalkeeper.

But to have a successful England

team,you need 35 top players

because injuries, loss of form

(like Paul Robinson's) and suspensions

will come. Unfortunately

for us, when our top players are

out,we can't replace them adequately.

Without John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and

Rooney,we were second best.

Our problems over the qualifying

campaign run deeper than Steve

McClaren. The Croatia match showed

our players aren't as good as they think

they are. When did the wide players go

outside their man and provide crosses

for Peter Crouch? Where was the cleverness

in the middle of the field? Luka

Modric ran the game for Croatia and

we couldn't get near him.

If we'd had a Chris Waddle or Bryan

Robson on the field at 2-2, we would

have been able to slow the game down

and see it out for that vital point. But

there wasn't anyone who could do that

job. The team lacked wisdom.

Given the nature of football, as soon

as McClaren was sacked, the attention

turned to who the next man should be.

In a perfect world,an Englishman would

be best. Next best would be a British

manager. But it's not a perfect world.

Above all, the right manager has to

tick the right boxes. That means being

bright, intelligent, experienced, a leader.

Someone with a strong personality,

tactical acumen, trophies in the bag and

Champions League experience.

Scratch your head and the only 'home'

manager who gets close is O'Neill, who

won silverware with Leicester and did

well on the international stage at Celtic.

He gets the best out of players, like his

mentor Brian Clough. If the FA sound

him out and he really does mean No,

we know that Mourinho and Capello

have the personality and judgment to

do a job for England.

Either would instantly get the respect

of the players and work hard to organise

a system for success. And they are

both available. I like Guus Hiddink as

well and, even though he's in charge of

Russia, I think there would be a chance

he would switch if asked.

Rijkaard hasn't been mentioned

widely but being

Barcelona manager is almost as

pressured as being in charge of

England. He has been fantastic

dealing with superstars such as Ronaldinho

and bringing success. Remember,

he has won the Champions League.

The important thing for the FA to

remember is that whoever we get will

only paper over the cracks until we sort

out our youth development. Get the

kids in young, throw away their iPods

and PlayStations and develop their

skills under the eye of top coaches.

I have to end with a word about

McClaren. He has been pilloried by

being called the worst English manager

of all time. I just feel he was a bit unfortunate

in that the mistakes he made

— like we all do — cost him so dear.

There were things I didn't like. When

I saw Steve Round bellowing instructions

on the touchline in the final minutes,

I felt like shouting to Steve

(McClaren): 'Tell him to sit down. That

is your job.' It summed up how badly

things had gone wrong.

There is potential among the England

players. We need someone to put a

rocket up the backside of someone like

Michael Carrick, who has the brains

and talent to perform on the big stage.

It's just a pity that it will probably have

to be a foreign manager to get the best

out of him and the rest of the players.

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