Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott)
The manager of the English National Football team and the British Prime Minister. Two very different jobs, yet they share some strikingly similar aspects. Both were thrown into contention in June, following incredibly disappointing performances, whilst both come with the huge pressure of a nation’s hopes on their shoulders. David Cameron and Roy Hodgson demonstrated just how difficult these jobs can be, both leaving their roles after they failed to achieve their basic aim – to keep the country in Europe for as long as possible.
As we step into the uncertainty of the post-Brexit world, the new Prime Minister has already been ‘elected’ – a term I use extremely loosely. Theresa May, 59, took up the position after she had an audience with The Queen on Wednesday afternoon. May has served in the Home Office since 2010, making her the longest serving Home Secretary of the modern era. Despite three other potential candidates emerging, it took just 19 days for May to secure the position.
19 days have also passed since Roy Hodgson read out his planned resignation speech, after England were humiliated by minnows, Iceland. Despite no agreement being reached as of yet, we do appear to be edging closer to an appointment, as the FA have held meetings with various managers. The bookies’ favourite is Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce, after the club released a statement confirming that talks between the FA and ‘Big Sam’ had taken place. Allardyce, despite not being renowned for it, is fairly tactically astute and does have a very good knowledge of English football, having managed numerous teams in the country since 1992.
Before the focus of this article is shifted primarily to football matters, it is worth outlining the negative view of Theresa May. My main qualm with May is her abysmal record when it comes to voting on progressive legislation. Since 1998, May has voted against equalizing the age of consent, against same-sex couples being allowed to adopt, in favour of an IVF legislation which effectively discriminated against lesbian couples and did not attend parliament for any of the four acts which led to the Gender Recognition Act. Furthermore, in my view it would be wrong to say that she has been elected as PM – she has been appointed, thus giving her no democratic mandate without a new general election taking place. Even with this in mind, I believe that she was still the best realistic option for PM – and that says something about the state of UK politics.
So why was she the most suitable candidate? First of all, she has plenty of experience when it comes to being in positions of responsibility, having been Home Secretary for over six years. The most crucial factor however, is that there was an extremely limited selection of people competing for the position to begin with. Usually, just because someone is more suitable for something than three other people, it doesn’t mean that they are the right person for the job. Unfortunately, in this instance, we didn’t have much of a choice – it was either Theresa May, or someone worse. Not everyone will agree with my assessment of the other candidates, so it is worth explaining the logic behind it.
The closest challenger in the end turned out to be Andrea Leadsom. The junior energy minister lacks experience and has only been an MP since 2010. Leadsom also has a poor record on voting for progressive laws, and went one further than May after she stated that she is ‘not happy’ about same-sex marriage. The fact that even her boss, Amber Rudd, felt that she was not suitable to be the next Prime Minister, tells us all we need to know. Onto the next challenger, Michael Gove. The man who claimed just weeks before he launched his leadership campaign that he himself does not have ‘that exceptional level of ability required for the job’. When added to the fact that he blatantly stabbed his supposed ally, Boris Johnson, in the back, it is clear that he is not the type of man that should be running our country. That leaves us with Boris. Boris Johnson. I shouldn’t really have to explain why this clumsy, xenophobic buffoon should be nowhere near 10 Downing Street, but for a short while it looked like a real possibility that he could be the next PM. Scandal after scandal, embarrassment after embarrassment, Johnson’s rise is another key indicator of the sorry state of British politics. For the reasons given above, I am certain that Theresa May was not only the right choice for PM, but also the only realistic choice out of the four contenders.
Unlike the position of Prime Minister, the manager’s position of the English National Football team is still very much up for grabs. Similarly to the Conservative Leadership ‘Contest’ however, there is a limited selection to choose from, as the FA seem to be insistent on appointing an English manager. I belong to the minority of English football fans who believe that this is not essential – I favour skill-set and suitability over nationality. However, if the FA truly are insistent on appointing an English manager, then there is only one man for the job: Sam Allardyce.
This is not because Allardyce is a great manager, nor is it because I feel that he is the man to lead this team of underachievers to glory. It is mainly due to the fact that he is a far better option than any of the other managers who fit the criteria. One option mooted by various journalists is Steve Bruce. Bruce is currently the manager of Hull City, a club who he has recently led back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Impressive? Slightly. Well, it would be more impressive if he wasn’t the one who got them relegated in the first place. The former Manchester United defender has also been sacked by Allardyce’s current club, Sunderland, and boasts a career win rate of 38%. Bruce has shown virtually nothing in his managerial career to suggest that he should even be named in the running for one of the most lucrative jobs in world football.
One man who can be considered a more suitable candidate however, is Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth manager has done a fine job with ‘The Cherries’ and plays an attractive brand of football, something which has gained him plenty of praise from players, fans and pundits. In my opinion however, the job has come too soon for him. Howe, 38, is still a ‘baby’ in the managerial world, and has only completed one full season in the Premier League. Whilst I can see him developing into a fantastic manager in the future, one worthy of a chance at managing the national team, it would be ideal for him to continue at Bournemouth for the foreseeable future. The rest of the list of English candidates is completely uninspiring. The idea of having the unimpressive England Under-21 boss, Gareth Southgate, or TV pundits Alan Shearer and Glenn Hoddle as the manager of the national team should be scoffed at.
It would be easy to just list the reasons why Sam Allardyce shouldn’t be the next manager of the national team, but it would be of far greater use to look at what he could offer to England. Allardyce’s teams are known to possess a particular characteristic, which the current England team are known for lacking; fight. Raheem Sterling has been made the ‘poster boy’ of the theory that the English players care more about themselves than the team, but the truth is, the whole squad lacks the elite mentality required for success. Let’s not forget, this current England side is incredibly talented and the players performed extremely well in the Premier League last season. We came into the tournament with great hope as a result of how well guys like Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Dele Alli had played in the months leading up to Euro 2016. This further endorses the view that the problem surrounding the English national team is not ability – it is down to the weak-minded nature of the squad.
This is where Allardyce can improve the team – he does not need to change anything drastically – his main job would be altering the mindset and attitude of the players, something which he has shown that he is able to do throughout his career. Having taken charge of almost one thousand games, Allardyce has never suffered a top-flight relegation, despite being involved in a few dogfights. Relegation battles are the ultimate test of a team’s character, and where Bruce’s Hull showed that they lacked fight, Allardyce’s teams have flourished on a number of occasions. If you were able to couple the mentality shown by Allardyce’s teams, and the playing ability of the current England squad, then you would surely be onto a winner.
Do I believe that Sam Allardyce and Theresa May are the best possible candidates for their respective jobs? No, absolutely not. When you look at the alternatives however, it should be clear to all that ending up with her and possibly him are the best possible realistic outcomes. Both have a wealth of experience in their respective fields, whilst they both possess the necessary attributes needed to succeed in their jobs: grit, determination, and desire. If by the end of the month, we were left in a position where we had Theresa May as Prime Minister, and Sam Allardyce as England manager, we should be cautiously optimistic about the future of the country. Most importantly, we should be thankful that the outcome was not as bad as it so easily could have been.