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Where do England go now?

England v Estonia - Wembley 13 October 2007 - Euro 2008 Qualifiers.  England 3 Estonia 0

When England were eliminated from Euro 2016 by Iceland, many considered the moment to represent a true rock bottom for the English national team, how wrong they were. The recent release of undercover reporter footage of Sam Allardyce, a man only appointed to the England role in late July, sent the reputation of English football and everyone connected to it crashing to previously unthinkable depths. What is more, this cloud has no silver lining to be seen, as Gareth Southgate has replaced Allardyce on an interim basis following Sam’s resignation, and in doing so has become possibly the most reluctant England manager in history (he claimed to have no interest in managing the England team on an interim basis when offered following the fallout from the Euros). Dealing with the embarrassment of what happened on the pitch against Iceland brought forward serious questions of the players’ commitment and ability to handle the psychological strain of international football, as well as the tactical decision making of the management staff. However, this recent scandal poses some much deeper questions that probe far beyond the action on the pitch itself.

So what exactly did this footage of Allardyce contain? Allardyce was shown to have had two meetings with undercover reporters posing as a fictional firm from the Far East that was interested in the economic rights to players. The most incriminating nail in Sam’s coffin was his recorded assurance that “You can still get around it [third-party ownership]” despite the practice of a third-party company or business owning a percentage of the economic rights to a player has been outlawed by the FA since the start of the 2008/2009 season. This damning statement was also followed by a string of personal attacks on the likes of Roy Hodgson, Gary Neville and even Prince Harry.

Rumblings of corruption have always seemed to surround Allardyce, for example a 2006 Panorama documentary showed footage of two agents claiming that Allardyce had taken bribes, a claim that Allardyce has always rejected. The question then has to be asked why the England manager, a job well known to be under constant scrutiny from the press, ever agreed to attend such a meeting, especially considering his chequered past. This point refutes the arguments put forward by those few who have tried to defend Sam by saying that he did at points in the meeting mention that he would have to run things by the FA. Simply put he should never have been in the room.

Southgate is the bookmaker’s favourite, but his lack of interest earlier in the year casts doubt on his actual desire to take on the role

An interesting twist to this story is that after claiming “entrapment has won” following his split from the England setup, Allardyce also made the slightest hint that he may be tempted to step out into the manager’s dugout once again if offers were to come his way. Only time will tell if any Premier league side becomes desperate enough to sell their souls to the footballing world’s current devil in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation.

With Gareth Southgate currently only appointed on a temporary basis, tasked to take charge of the England team for only the next four games, we must wait to see what the FA has planned for England’s managerial future. Currently, the bookmakers have Southgate as the most likely man to become the next permanent manager.  However, his lack of interest earlier in the year casts doubts on his actual desire to take on the role. The Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was suggested by several pundits to be an exciting option for the role, but Howe has recently come out and said that the job is not something he wants to consider. With his long Arsenal career surely in its final stages, Arsene Wenger is an England managerial prospect with an impressive CV matched by very few current managers. Furthermore, there have been suggestions to offer the former England manager Glen Hoddle a second crack at the whip, despite a controversial first stint in charge. Steve Bruce, Roberto Mancini and Jürgen Klinsmann are the other major names in the mix. For those who like an outside bet, the bookmakers have Eric Cantona at 100:1 odds to take on the role. Knowing the FA it will be none of the above, but with scintillating games against Slovenia and Scotland on the horizon this is likely the most excitement England fans will get in the near future.

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