Beckham Understands Passion

It was a headline in the Independent, and my heart sank: “Beckham sees Capello’s passion as key to England success.”

“Passion and commitment” were once an unwanted theme of this blog. Here’s a recap of two myths of British football that are wrong but effortlessly ever-present:

  1. “Passion outweighs skill and technique.” What we need is/are eleven Stuart Pearces. Well, organization can outweight skill and technique, but veinbusting headless chicken tactics never have. Never. (Stuart Pearce was and is an intelligent and skilful footballer and a student of the game. Eleven Pearces would indeed do us very well, but not solely because he cares about the game: the other elements he brings are far more important).
  2. Fans are too ready to believe that the feelings and emotion they bring to the game are those that are necessary to success in it. Unless, of course, they are urging Rooney to calm down: case closed, M’lud.

So I expected more of the same rubbish from Beckham. After all, we’ve had plenty of it from John Terry this summer. Who can say this about themselves without revealing far more  than they intended?

I’m still very disappointed by it (Terry’s penalty miss in the Champions League Final), but I’m a big man and have a big character and it’s down for me to deal with it.

But no. Beckham has worn the England armband more recently than Terry. This is a good thing:

Beckham said: “He is passionate about football. He has a total dedication to this sport.

“I think he is one of the coaches who spends most time watching football, talking about football, analysing football – and this shows the passion that he feels for his work.

“He always wants the best for his team and for his players. Now that he is England coach I am sure that things are going to go well.

“He is an ambitious coach who only wants to win – and he is someone with a lot of success behind him.”

Yes. Passionate interest, passionate hunger for knowledge, knowhow, technique, an edge. That kind of passion is what we all need in our work and our daily lives. It’s what Beckham’s shown throughout his career. It’s what’s famously lacking amongst young English players and too many English coaches, who are swift to assume that they know the game simply because they’ve been around its English version for a couple of decades.

In one sense, MOTD’s employment of ex-players has been illuminating in this regard: it’s becoming obvious to more and more fans that players can reach the top and enjoy long, successful careers without gaining any real insight into their craft at all.

For some reason, this applies less to Scotland.

Consider for a moment the changed outlook for British managers when Sir Alex Ferguson retires. At the moment, the UK can claim husbandry of one of the great European coaches. During his career, we could also look to Jock Stein, Don Revie, Brian Clough, Bob Paisley, Bobby Robson, Terry Venables (the last Englishman to take a club to the European Cup Final, over twenty years ago) and perhaps others from that 1965-85 period too.

At one point in the late seventies, all of those men were working in British football management at the same time.

One argument goes that the top four clubs are unwilling to give British managers a chance, and that without the budgets and player access those clubs enjoy, it’s hard to make comparisons. This is obviously true. At this rate, David Moyes will turn Everton into a top four club long before a top four opportunity comes his way. There is nothing more he can do at Everton to prove his worth. Mark Hughes, too, looks the part, although after Sven’s experience at City, he has a hard season ahead of him. No one doubts that Martin O’Neill should have been England manager in 2006 any more, and few did then.

But beware the examples of McClaren, Curbishley and Allardyce. Unless something dramatic happens, these three careers, the brightest England managers of their generation, have already peaked without their showing anything other than that their doubters were correct. I feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce. I feel some respect for Steve McClaren, and wish him luck in Holland. Curbishley’s been a manager at the top level in England for a very long time without suggesting that his teams can ever be comfortable fighting for honours.

No, this is a generation to pass over. But there are positive things ahead. We are constantly exposed, in England, to the best players, many of the best coaches and, of course, to our relative shortcomings. Year by year, the need to train coaches properly climbs further up the agenda, if slowly. According to Wenger, a new generation of British youngsters is coming through who compare to any in Europe.

If the players are there, where are the coaches?

Our best hope is that they are hidden. Alf Ramsey coached all of one season in the First Division before becoming England manager. What price now that Simon Clifford/Sir Clive Woodward team?

Ten years now since this, though:

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4 responses to “Beckham Understands Passion

  1. I can’t see McLaren getting another chance in England, but now he’s in the Netherlands, he might actually be in the right environment to become the manager many hoped he could be when he started out his career.

    Incidentally, Ferguson is a great, but his record at teaching his understudies doesn’t seem so impressive.

  2. Metatone –

    Bruce, Hughes, Ince, Keane, Coppell.. not bad, I think. Give them a top team and you might see.

    I am not sure any club has better managerial alumni.

  3. As James often notes, ex top flight players get lots of chances at management in England. So that wasn’t the metric I had in mind.

    Rather I was thinking about Knox and Brian Kidd and Steve McLaren. We’ll see what Carlos Q does too.

  4. Kidd and McLaren left Ferguson too early IMO, especially the latter. You’ve got to stick around to learn something, and only leave when you’re ready.