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How about land of Hod for Euros?
ONE down…one to go – the vacancies for national sports coaches for England have been halved.
After what seemed an unnecessarily protracted quest, Stuart Lancaster was this week confirmed as the England rugby union coach.
Now there’s just one opening, that for England football manager, the search for which has gone alarmingly quiet.
First, back to the Twickenham talisman. Initially appointed as an interim leader of the 15-a-side code ranks, Lancaster took up the reins of a job that had been left shredded by the fiasco of the winter World Cup campaign.
The red rose ranks returned from South Africa to blighty more red-faced than a crimson portrait painted in carotene after a campaign bedevilled by sloppy performances on the pitch and a trail of ill-discipline off it.
It was a tournament of torture for England. Any threat to southern hemisphere dominance was plainly non-existent while the robotic, stilted play was a million miles away from the exuberance of Wales. Even Scotland looked more attractive and they could not score a meaningful try for all the Edinburgh rock quarried from the capital’s gift shops.
A change had to come from the English RFU as the sweet chariot’s wheels had patently fallen off, while its status was lower than a snake’s underbelly.
Enter Lancaster. Enter a new backroom team led principally by Andrew Farrell and Graham Rowntree. Enter too a flurry of shiny, but largely internationally untried new faces.
To the new coach’s credit there was no fanfare. The new era was ushered in almost unnoticed even though the Six-Nations Championship was looming.
Doubters wondered whether the prime championship for Europe’s top sides would come too soon.
But the nous of Lancaster prevailed. His unshowy but steady stewardship helped to guide England to a more than creditable runners-up spot to Wales.
The red rose blossomed with rediscovered dignity, discipline and the promise that more was to come from the likes of Chris Robshaw, Owen Farrell, David Strettle, and also Pocklington’s own Rob Webber, who was drafted into the Six-Nations squad and made his international debut from the bench.
Coincidentally, while Lancaster was proving his ability, clamour grew for rivals to the national post, the front-runner being former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett.
At least the RFU saw sense and stuck with the man, who gave a shot in the arm to a flagging reputation.
Now that’s resolved, time surely for the FA to get to grips with who will succeed Fabio Capello – remember him? – as England football coach.
This summer’s Euro Championships draw nearer and indecision seems to be the only certainty.
The favourite remains Harry Redknapp, but he has the not inconsiderable task of trying to secure an FA Cup final place and a Premier League top four position for his club employers Tottenham.
Prising Redknapp away from his Spurs job before the domestic season ends is not only highly unlikely, but grossly unfair to those fans of the north London club now anticipating arguably their most successful campaign since the double year of 1961.
And few could expect even good ol’ Harry to turn it on instantly if accorded the England post straight after the Premier League term closes.
Then there’s Stuart Pearce, the under-21s’ boss, who was in charge for last month’s friendly against Holland.
The feeling is that translating U21 tournament experience into the full-blown brouhaha of a major championships may not come off.
There is an escape route for the FA – one that could play to an insistent chorus of “interim, interim, let’s get interim”.
Cue Glenn Hoddle, former manager of the England parish, whose exit was on the back of a harmful karma remark, but surely who deserves a second chance, even if it is only for the duration of Euro 2012 in the Ukraine and Poland.
If a permanent successor to Capello is proving elusive, then why not opt for Hoddle?
In his favour is the fact he has experience of a major tournament, and he also brought innovative ideas to national selection.
Who knows, it might not be a Messianic second coming, but another Lancaster may well be unearthed.
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