Stuart Pearce was surprisingly impressive yesterday. Announcing his first, and probably only, England squad, the caretaker/Under-21 boss came across as thoughtful, logical and sensible.
His justification for leaving out, at one end of the scale, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick was straightforward an without sensation. His argument in favour of a gradual evolution, by which Frazier Campbell came in but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t, was equally reasonable and low-key (as well as neatly paired with his statements for his own ‘half-readiness’). Gradual evolution, as Danny Taylor points out in today’s Guardian, is a key feature of the feted holy grail of the German/Spanish model. Explicitly, this is what the FA wants; Pearce is speaking their language.
Unfortunately for Pyscho, though, he will not get the England job. Arry will.
As if Redknapp wasn’t a shoo-in already, Tottenham’s two matches since their manager changed from heir apparent to heir elect have shown him to be perfectly qualified for the big job. First, against Newcastle (a team at the bottom of the same bracket), Tottenham ‘ran riot’ – dishing out the sort of encouraging thumping that often begins a new England gaffer’s tenure. England’s first professional manager, Walter Winterbottom started this trend, beating Ireland 7-2 in his first match in charge and it has continued: Glenn Hoddle’s first match was a 3-0 win in Moldova, a famous draw in Italy and a waltz to the World Cup; Capello’s England, after a demon-vanquishing display in Zagrebm fell one match (their last) short of perfect qualification in 2010; even Kevin Keegan managed to galvanize a flagging qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win over Poland, a play-off defeat of Scotland and a tournament victory over Germany.
Such encouragement, the mark of the early part of an England tenure, always gives way to despair as good pre-tournament form peters out into frustrating and vapid tournament displays. These displays, the World Cup draw with Algeria is a case in point, are marked by an inexplicable drop in the English level to that of their opponents. Redknapp has that down too, part two of his audition being a dismal draw away to Stevenage in which Tottenham – with three at the back, Bale in the middle and Defoe up front – played a nonsensical long-ball game not so much into the hands of their opponents but onto their heads, ideal for a team of Stevenage’s technical limitation but physical liberation.
In just two matches, Redknapp’s Tottenham have covered both sides of the English ying-yang. Redknapp is the front-runner because, ultimately, he gives the papers what they want and no amount of Pearceian logic will change that. ‘Arry, in just two games, has turned Tottenham into a little-England, great against a decent team and poor against a bad one. He is comfortable, he is the status quo and that is why he is the only man for the job.