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Who for England Manager - 14/11/00

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Nothing Great About This Job

American evangelist Billy Graham would struggle to sell the England manager's job. It's a hard enough task when things are relatively rosy. But given the current problems, it is no wonder potential candidates are queuing up to distance themselves.

I have been saying for a long time that people expect too much from the England side because to be rated a great team, you need seven or eight high-quality players. And England simply do not possess them

I'm not saying the current team are bad players, but in international football you have to move on to a different level. Technically, you have to be about 95percent the finished article and I'm afraid the majority of them aren't at that level.

So the incoming manager faces a real nightmare. Of course, the right tactics and systems come into it. If a team are organised on and off the ball, it is a big advantage. But players must be able to pass the ball accurately from A to B, and the technique to control it quickly. The simple fact is that the bulk of English players are found wanting in those areas.

People talk of a conveyor belt of talented youngsters coming through, but if that is the case - and I'm not convinced - they will mature too slowly to help England's qualifying hopes for the World Cup. It leaves the new manager with a big dilemma: does he sacrifice qualifying for Korea and Japan in 2002 and blood a new young team instead and let them develop for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup? Or, while there is still a chance of qualifying, does he still go for it by making the best of what England have?

I believe the FA, the players, the public and the media would want everyone to try his hardest to qualify for 2002. There is too much at stake for the game in this country to write off the chance to play in the World Cup finals.

You could pick an exciting, young squad now of 13 or 14 players all 25 or under: Richard Wright or Nick Weaver in goal; Wes Brown, Jonathan Woodgate, Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry as a back four; Kieron Dyer, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Steve Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Lee Bowyer and Joe Cole to contest the midfield positions; Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Robbie Fowler up front.

But I would not name a team from that collection yet, and I don't believe the new manager would, either. For starters, they would be suspect, defensively ... and everyone knows my opinion of kids. Talking about a lack of talent on the pitch, it is also a sad indictment of English football that the only Englishman with the right managerial credentials is Terry Venables.

Whether the FA goes for him remains to be seen, but where is the alternative? I don't believe appointing a foreign coach is a good idea. The new manager must be able to convey his ideas and tactics and leave the players in no doubt what is expected of them. In turn, they must understand those tactics and take them on board.

You got the feeling with Kevin Keegan that although the players liked him immensely, maybe he didn't express his tactics with the necessary conviction to make his squad sit up and say: "Hey, he's spot-on there."

The goal conceded against Germany wasn't down to tactics, however, but basic errors, but I wonder how the decision to play Gareth Southgate in midfield went down with the other players. When I heard the team I couldn't believe it.

Why no Paul Ince or Dennis Wise, players past their best but used to playing in that position? If Kevin had been thinking of quitting, I feel he should have gone after Euro 2000 or after the Finland game and not in between. But although there were several mitigating factors, England should still have performed better in Helsinki against a poor Finnish team.

It is a sign of how far England have fallen that Albania's win over Greece was cause for celebration. Although Germany are favourites to win the group, England can still qualify, via second place and the play-offs. But if they do, don't believe they can go on to win the Cup. It is time for reality