Is managing England really the ‘mission impossible’ of football?

England playes lie on the pitch after being beaten by Iceland at this year's Euros.  (PA).
England playes lie on the pitch after being beaten by Iceland at this year's Euros. (PA).

At one time it was among the most prestigious jobs in football, but has the role of England manager become a poisoned chalice? Chris Bond asks.

Speaking in July having just been officially unveiled in his “dream” job, Sam Allardyce rejected the idea that being England manager was a poisoned chalice.

Beaming confidently in front of the cameras he told reporters he was tough enough to deal with the challenges that lay ahead, crowing: “Bring it on.”

Fast forward 67 days and Allardyce’s humiliating, and less than gracious, departure has once again thrown English football into chaos - just when fans thought it couldn’t get any worse following the team’s dismal showing at the Euros.

But as the former Sunderland manager goes away to ponder his future his dismissal has raised the question of whether the England job should come with a health warning.

It can be argued that the problems go back 43 years and the fateful decision to sack Sir Alf Ramsay. In October 1973 England could only manage a draw with Poland which meant they failed to qualify for the World Cup finals. Sir Alf was later sacked and replaced by Don Revie.

On paper at least, Revie appeared the ideal choice having established Leeds United as one of the most formidable sides in Europe. However, it soon turned sour. England’s failure to reach the 1976 European Championships was compounded by a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign and in 1977, with his tenure as England manager about to end, Revie negotiated a lucrative switch to the United Arab Emirates - sparking anger amongst many fans.

Subsequent managers have needed an equally thick skin. Graham Taylor was harshly portrayed as a turnip after a defeat by Sweden at Euro 92, while Steve McClaren was dubbed “The Wally With The Brolly” following a defeat by Croatia that ended England’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 - the sight of him glumly clutching an umbrella in the rain became an abiding memory of his 18-month reign.

Perhaps only the late, great Bobby Robson, whose team came within a whisker of World Cup glory at Italia 90, left the job on his own terms and with his reputation enhanced. It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at the FA for making the wrong appointments, but in most cases the person they plumped for was arguably the most qualified candidate of those available.

In the mid-90s Terry Venables steered England to the brink of triumph at Euro 96 only to come up against eventual winners Germany. But his knowledge on the pitch was matched only by his ability to court controversy off it and he stepped down after the tournament.

The experiment with high profile foreign managers hasn’t proved successful either. Sven-Göran Eriksson failed to take England beyond the quarter-final stage of a tournament despite being able to call on the services of the so-called “golden generation” of players including David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen. Neither did Fabio Capello who, despite boasting a glittering CV, couldn’t take England to the next level.

Then came Roy Hodgson who oversaw the 2-1 defeat by Iceland in June this year - a new nadir in our nation’s long footballing history.

It’s certainly fair to say that heady afternoon on the sun-drenched turf at Wembley 50 years ago when Bobby Moore held the Jules Rimet trophy aloft has never felt further away. There’s no doubt, either, that decent men have buckled under the weight of an expectant nation. But it doesn’t mean managing England has become an impossible task - you just need the right person at the right time and no small amount of luck - this is football we’re talking about, not rocket science. Perhaps it’s going to take someone like former German striker Jurgen Klinsmann to change our footballing fortunes. Now wouldn’t that be ironic…