The Last Word: The crazy managerial merry-go-round

The English FA has inexplicably appointed Steve McClaren as the next manager of the national team.

Steve McClaren 88 (photo credit: )
Steve McClaren 88
(photo credit: )
Am I the only England soccer team supporter pulling my hair out in frustration? There I was a couple of weeks ago, minding my own business, when the dreaded announcement came through. The English Football Association had inexplicably appointed Steve McClaren as the next manager of England's national soccer team. OK, the decision had at least ended the ridiculously long speculation period over who would be replacing Sven Goran Eriksson. But McClaren? The man is the epitome of English mediocrity. The Middlesbrough team he has managed for the last five years hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Just a few months ago, upset fans were ripping their season tickets up in his face after an embarrassing 7-0 loss to Arsenal in the Premier League. And the club may have managed to reach the UEFA Cup final earlier this month, but the 4-0 drubbing by Sevilla did not impress at all. The choice sums up one of the big problems in soccer. The decision-makers don't seem to know what they are doing. The FA fiasco began a week or two earlier, when it was suddenly leaked that, after much careful deliberation, the association had offered the England job to Luis Felipe Scolari - the moustachioed Brazilian known as "Big Phil," who had guided Brazil to victory in the last World Cup and then done well with Portugal. All well and good in theory, but there was one small problem - the guy can not speak English. At all. Not even a little bit. And I can't think of anyone in England who would likely to be able to understand Portuguese. Thankfully, Big Phil turned the job down. But this does not excuse the decision to give it to McClaren. Martin O'Neill was always the only manager left on the shortlist who looked like he could inspire the players and do a good job. Speculation over managerial appointments has definitely not been isolated around the England job. Here in Israel, a not dissimilar saga has been unfolding over who will coach Betar Jerusalem next season after the nutty Frenchman Luis Fernandez finally did the right thing and said he won't stay for another season. The decision process here in Israel's capital has mirrored the embarrassment of the FA, with various unlikely names being bandied around. First the former Newcastle, Manchester City and England manager Kevin Keegan was revealed by various newspapers as being in talks with owner Arkadi Gaydamak. But he decided the unprofessionalism of the story being leaked to the press was a bad sign and he pulled out. Now, the most intriguing candidate is the ex-Tottenham and Barcelona manager Terry Venables. It would be wonderful to see El Tel walk out onto the pitch at Teddy, but I very much doubt it's going to happen. The club may appear to be revelling in Russian billionaire Arkadi's massive influx of money, but anyone who takes a trip down to Betar's run-down, dirty training ground will come away with an altogether different impression. If Gaydamak wants to make Betar into a top international side, he better start improving the training facilities or he will never be able to attract top players or managers. And Venables will surely be staying in England.