Lots of people have picked over the bones of England’s dismal Euro 2016 efforts, and the general tone is one of mystery and confusion – as if it’s almost a problem that can’t be solved.
It’s funny to think that the business world likes to hear from Sir Alex Ferguson about leadership, because the football world should probably pay a bit more attention too.
Football is a team game. You can’t put individuals together and hope for the best, even when they are as talented as some of the young English players are. You have to build a plan for each game you face; you build your plan around the weaknesses of the opposition and the strengths of your individuals; you then organise your players around the plan.
You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of both teams so that when something happens (injury, substitution) you can adjust your plan and team shape.
This is all obvious, of course.
Where England go wrong is they never have a manager who is bold enough to stamp in his plan, his style. Someone willing to drop the big names if they don’t fit or perform. National sides play far, far fewer games than domestic clubs, so the outcome for each game is significantly more dependent on the manager. He is the 12th player, and ought to be intimately connected to and directing the action minute-by-minute in a way that domestic managers don’t quite need to be.
Iceland don’t have better players, but they did have a better plan. It was simple and effective and, frankly, obvious.
You will know from the moment the next England manager is appointed whether they have a chance in the near future. It will be down to him, far less than the team at his disposal.