Commentary

Three Lions need the harsh wake-up call of an Eddie Jones clone

To see what Eddie Jones has done to England's rugby players, transforming them from tournament flops into a side to fear, is to fantasise about what a coach of his calibre might do with our perennially failing footballers.

But Martin Glenn and his team of FA headhunters are likely to find that appealing notion of a saviour-for-hire crashing against the cold, hard rocks of reality.

Finding football's Eddie Jones would be the first problem. Glenn talked boldly on Tuesday of a long-term appointment leading England to the 2022 World Cup Finals.

But, if they are hoping to land one of management's big beasts, it seems they have already missed a few despite having taken soundings from Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, among others, over the past six months.

There would be some irony if England go for a foreign coach just when half the country has voted to lock the doors to immigrants, but Glenn's talk of "an inspirational manager who can harness all our resources" did not sound like Gareth Southgate or Eddie Howe, who might make decent England managers one day but are too young or inexperienced.

To observe Hodgson rubbing his hands together, physically shaking and voice cracking, was to see the physical toll this job can take, never mind the damage to a reputation.

"Roy, Iceland is not your epitaph, your legacy," Glenn, the FA chief executive, told the 68-year-old in Chantilly.

Another manager departs, damaged forever. People say that England have no identity but what about the endless underachievement blamed on decent club managers, and even revered ones like Fabio Capello. They all fail but they cannot all be fools, or turnips.

Another manager departs, damaged forever. People say that England have no identity but what about the endless underachievement blamed on decent club managers, and even revered ones like Fabio Capello. They all fail but they cannot all be fools, or turnips.

Glenn was entitled to talk of a "syndrome", of "brittleness", of some enduring flaw in our footballing culture yet, still, quite a few coaches will fancy their chances of improving this squad when they see how Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy could be reduced to shadows at Euro 2016.

To watch the players mentally disintegrate against Iceland was also to see that it is not purely about the right formation. Young, fresh and optimistic when they boarded the plane, by Monday night the dressing room was "a scene of devastation and personal grief", according to Glenn.

The way brains were frozen by Iceland's equaliser - Wayne Rooney could not hit a five-yard pass in the last 30 minutes - we can only imagine how they would cope with the line of brutal honesty that a coach like Jones brings.

"I hope you have got long fingernails," Jones told James Haskell on taking the England post. Why? "Because you are only just clinging on."

When Ben Youngs sat down, Jones lobbed a bag of sweets at him and told him: You're too fat, not sharp enough.

How would Joe Hart's ego cope if Jones threw him a bar of soap and asked, "Having a bit of trouble catching, mate?" Would Rooney be able to handle it if Jones chucked a bag of cement and said: "Let's start by trapping that."

We can imagine how much sympathy Jones might have for Raheem Sterling trying to turn himself into a social media martyr by describing himself as #TheHatedOne.

He would tell these players that they are good, but not nearly as good as their pay packets make them believe. Are these players - whose media performances were routinely embarrassing in their defensiveness and bland disinterest - ready to take on adult responsibility?

"It's not me that's changing the team," Jones said. "The players are changing themselves. All I'm doing is building a house for them to operate in."

The FA searches again for the right man, someone who is certain of his tactics, has a game plan for this particular generation; who knows their qualities and can act as coach and psychiatrist to soothe the wounds from Euro 2016.

Glenn raised the stakes by saying he would wait a year to find the right man. There will be a disappointed sigh if it is Alan Pardew, for all that he has done fitfully well for Newcastle United and Crystal Palace.

Pardew is certainly no Eddie Jones but then, in football, who is? And is he available? In any case, England should have learnt by now that there are good and bad coaches, but no messiahs.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Three Lions need the harsh wake-up call of an Eddie Jones clone'. Print Edition | Subscribe