England will need a new manager in two years. This appointment should be about continuity.
Remarkably, it is only 27 months until Euro 2024 kicks off in Germany. The end of that tournament will likely see the end of Gareth Southgate as England manager. Quite what his legacy will be is impossible to know, but one thing is for certain, he’s already been more successful than any other manager in the modern era.
That is still not good enough for some, of course, but then again, I think even if we win the World Cup and Euro 2024, there will be those who say we got an easy draw, didn’t beat any of the best sides and somehow got lucky. Lovely Gareth annoys those people a lot and they’re reluctant to hand him any credit or praise, despite the obvious fact that he has built a tremendous team spirit with his kind teacher/big brother approach.
But with just 27 months to go until we need a new manager for England, who could that be? I suspect following Gareth will be something of a poisoned chalice because Southgate has been a unique manager, a different sort of person to any that have done the job previously. Articulate, empathetic and yet firm when needed, it seems hard to imagine the FA won’t go after someone who is sort of Garethy, in order to carry on his good work.
Southgate was an ‘inside’ appointment, moved up from the U21s. The current boss of the U21s is Lee Carsley, who just led them to a 4- 1 win over Andorra to make 50 European qualifiers unbeaten. Could he be the new Gareth? Having only been appointed last August, it is too early to say but there is an obvious advantage to having a man in charge of the first team who knows the under-age players well. It has worked for the current incumbent.
The days are hopefully gone when fans insist that the best coach should manage England. You don’t have to be the best. What does best even mean? Being a national manager is a job with few parallels in regular league football. The very episodic nature of it, where you have limited time with players, are always vulnerable to injuries and loss of form of crucial players, means it requires people with the right attitude to cope with that.
Southgate conducts himself with such dignity, moderation and not a little charm, it is easy to forget just how he has revolutionised how England play and also how many players he’s blooded in order to come up with a squad fit to take on the task of actually winning something.
No-one could claim he’s been perfect, but then no manager is. How do you like Roberto Mancini now? Victorious Euros manager last summer, now a total loser. That’s football for you.
If it isn’t to be Lee Carsley – and don’t discount it being him – who else is in contention? I suspect it will have to be an Englishman. The days of importing overseas managers at great expense all seems very early 2000s now. And after all, international football should be nation v nation and that should, at least for the big football countries, mean the manager too.
Other candidates might include Eddie Howe, though he’s busy staining his reputation at Newcastle United. His uncomfortable stonewalling of important questions will not have gone unnoticed, given much of the England job is largely PR and press conferences.
Steven Gerrard could be an option. He will not be massively experienced, but neither was Southgate. But one suspects he’d rather have a successful club career and with the Liverpool job vacant in 2024, he may well be distracted.
Frank Lampard would no doubt have been considered but if you’re taking Everton down, that should rule you out. Okay, Gareth got Boro relegated in his third season but he didn’t have an expensively assembled squad to play with. Still, there’s time for Frank to charm his way into another cushy job, no but seriously, it’d be a great honour.
It seems unlikely, and possibly unfair not to look below the top flight for a manager (though if you want an outside bet, think Wayne Rooney), which currently leaves us with Sean Dyche (perceived as too old school) Roy (done it already), Dean Smith (doesn’t seem statesmanlike enough) and Graham Potter, who is a man built in what we might call the Southgate tradition. Intelligent, a thinker and someone who has cut his teeth at the dusty end of football’s fretboard, he seems ideal. He also talks well in press conferences and while this probably shouldn’t be that important as England manager, it actually really is.
So my money is on Potter. However, there is one other option. If a Northern Irishman who works in England could pass the nationality test, Brendan Rodgers might be available in two years; time. He’ll be about 51 by then and may be looking for a high-profile gig. There’s no doubting his abilities and his communication skills are at least memorable.
Potter or Rodgers? Who would you have? Is there anyone else? Southgate has set such a high standard that going back to some old school shouter will just look stone age. We want a modern sophisticate who can sell England as a concept to players in the way the current manager has.
I think that man is Graham Potter, not least because he can grow a fine sea captain’s beard.