The divide between club and country is the defining fault line of the modern game. In England in 2007, the divide is more pronounced than ever.
England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 has highlighted how success at club level may be inhibiting progress at international level.
The Premier League, with its frenetic, high-tempo action, is pulling in fans from around the globe, not to mention investor-speculators keen to cash in. English clubs are progressing in European competition, too. The Premier League provided three of the four semifinalists of last season's Champions League.
But the success at the club level has coincided with a national-team malaise many people are now blaming on the number of foreign players in the Premier League. Mercenary foreigners are taking the places that should be going to young English players, so the argument goes.
I don't accept that argument at all. The best English players -- the likes of
Few questions are being asked about why English soccer doesn't produce enough players with with the sort of technique and tactical awareness Croatia demonstrated when it eliminated England from Euro qualifying at Wembley last month. Not enough people are asking why 10-year-old kids in England play on full-size pitches. Not enough people are asking why parents are allowed to scream abuse at kids from the touchline.
Instead, the quick fix for English soccer is to appoint a national-team coach who can knock the team into shape. Someone who can succeed where
The Football Association is currently, we are led to believe, conducting an exhaustive search for McClaren's successor. The $5 million annual-salary paid to McClaren is likely to be offered to the right man, making him the best-paid national coach in the world.
Trouble is, at the moment, it's the job nobody wants.
The problem with the whole process is that it tends to be a reaction to the previous appointment. When
The same applies to the appointment process. When Eriksson was appointed, the process was a discreet affair, with Eriksson's agent receiving a phone call shortly after Keegan resigned following England's defeat to Germany at the old Wembley. In contrast, McClaren was appointed after a lengthy interview process in which candidates were invited to compete for the job as if they were being considered to be CEO of a multinational company.
But FA chief executive
Barwick is now consulting with the great and the good of English soccer, and
There are precious few English candidates.
O'Neill may yet be persuaded to change his mind. The Aston Villa manager was hardly going to bite the FA's hand off after his previous experience, when he apparently declined to answer questions about youth development during the FA interview process. He insisted that he would concentrate on coaching the national side and let others handle technical development.
The only high-profile candidate to declare for the job has been
Former Chelsea manager
Former Germany coach
But whoever gets the job, the fundamental problems of English soccer will remain for the foreseeable future.