Eurospot: Harry not right for England



At a glance, it might seem akin to building a luxurious extension on a dilapidated house still awaiting structural reinforcement and a new roof. But actually, this is the more critical appointment for the governing body, the foundation that will support all England's future development.

In theory, the permanent appointment of a new technical director will have a more profound impact on England's football culture and the way attitudes and approaches to the game evolve than the rather more transient appointment of whoever is tasked with replacing Fabio Capello.

As the FA laid out this week, the new technical director - taking up the role vacated by Howard Wilkinson all the way back in 2002 and working alongside director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking - will have responsibility to "help raise the standards of both the elite and grassroots game in England ... a particular focus of the technical director's role will be to lead and manage a world class, qualified and licensed national coach education workforce and programme."

The technical director will be working at the new football centre at St George's Park and will help support the implementation of the Elite Player Performance Plan - a long-term strategy designed to increase the number of quality of English players emerging from the ranks. Clearly it was no overstatement for FA general secretary Alex Horne to claim that "the role of technical director will be crucial as we continue to strive towards improving the technical ability and knowledge of our players and coaches both now and in the future."

The fact the FA has started the recruitment process at a time when they appear content to merely, in the words of Brooking, "parachute" a new coach in prior to the start of Euro 2012 is illuminating regarding the FA's long-term vision, and perhaps explains why they have so far shied away from slavishly following public opinion with regard to the manager's role.

When Capello resigned at the start of February, plunging England's preparations for Euro 2012 into a state of flux from which they have not yet recovered, it was widely accepted - in some quarters with relish, others with resignation - that Harry Redknapp would be the next new England manager. There was very little room for dissent in that respect.

Yet Redknapp remains in charge of Spurs; there has been no official approach. With every passing week, Stuart Pearce's chances of managing England at a major tournament appear to grow, and Redknapp's, ever so slightly, recede.

Could it be that those in charge of the FA - those who have made a new technical director a clear priority - have come to the conclusion that as England football approaches a crucial juncture in its structural and cultural development, they would be best served by a first-team manager who shares this vision and helps facilitate it.

That requires a certain type of individual. The prime example being, of course, Germany coach Joachim Loew who, in association with Germany's own technical director Matthias Sammer, has ensured that the young talents produced by a structural revolution in the German game following a demoralising Euro 2000 have been successfully assimilated into the national team, to stunning effect.

It is the German model, and that of France's Clairefontaine before it, that England are trying to ape, and with good reason. Loew is the cultured, considered, intelligent face of the German national side and has successfully helped incubate the offspring of a system that - thanks to the oversight of Germany's Academies Committee, of which Sammer himself is a member, and sustained investment of over half a billion euros since 2001-02 - succeeds in producing technically-adept, well-rounded individuals who can galvanise the national side.

For such an approach to work, it needs a coach, like Loew, who is willing to embrace an element of risk and introduce young players at quite a rate. At the 2010 World Cup, his vibrant collective was the third youngest squad at the finals and Germany's youngest since 1934. Integrating such a new approach requires a technical director, a structural rethink, but also a national team coach who has his eyes gazing firmly at the horizon, rather than focusing on possible failure looming in the rear-view mirror.

Harry Redknapp, though he has many other qualities, is emphatically not that man.

Now 65, his strengths lie in transfer recruitment - whatever he may say to the contrary in heated post-match interviews - and motivating the group of players at his disposal. Redknapp is not a man to turn to for strategic insight or cultural transformation. Indeed, his arrival at Tottenham in 2008 heralded the end of the club's more collegial, continental structure and a return to a more conventional system of management.

His players have had no qualms in speaking of his tactical shortcomings, while Redknapp himself claimed in his court case for tax evasion this year that he was only semi-literate, a defence that worked, yet permanently coloured perceptions of a manager who has never cut the most cultured figure. Conventional intelligence in this respect should not be a pre-requisite for a national coach, but it should probably be an aspiration.

Such concerns aside, there is nothing inherently wrong with the rather more old-fashioned kind of manager. Redknapp's approach has brought him the FA Cup with Portsmouth and Champions League qualification with Tottenham, while perhaps the prime example of the short-term manager is Jose Mourinho.

Though his literacy skills are somewhat more advanced, Mourinho also embodies short-termism, leaving Inter exhausted and depleted after winning the Treble and moving on to Madrid, where he has spent vast sums of money in an attempt to depose Barcelona, rather than taking them on at a cultural or structural level.

Mourinho's reign at Chelsea was more prolonged, yet it could hardly be said he left in place foundations for great future success given his reluctance to introduce the young players emerging from Frank Arnesen's maligned academy, and reliance instead on the transfer funds afforded him by Roman Abramovich.

Barcelona's Josep Guardiola is the obvious contrast. Not content with possessing one of the greatest teams ever assembled, he has continued the process of accelerated development this season by handing a more senior role to Thiago Alcantara and promoting Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca to first-team duties, marrying undeniable high-scale investment with youth progression. The Catalan was linked with the England job earlier this month of course, which should come as no surprise.

In putting the technical director role out to tender, the FA has demonstrated it possesses such a long-term vision and installing a figure like Guardiola or Loew is more commensurate with that approach. Whether the incoming technical director is a success or not, Redknapp would hardly be a strong contender to coach the senior side and prove pliable in ensuring the percolation of a new philosophy at all levels.

England need a short-term fix at Euro 2012 - and Redknapp would be ideal if he can extricate himself from Spurs in time for the summer - yet as the FA attempts to transform English football at all levels and oversee a huge strategic operation, it could be forgiven for quietly ignoring the claims of the press and public's number one choice.

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