When Steve McClaren announced he was leaving Boro for England, his team fell apart in the biggest game in their history.
The FA says they have multiple candidates and they haven't made a decision on their new manager. Harry Redknapp says that no one has called him. A lot of this is probably true, and some of it probably isn't. Eventually, Harry Redknapp will probably be named the England manager, and no one will be surprised. The fans, the media, and the players want someone English. The FA wants someone English. Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson haven't accomplished much lately.
So, like they did with Steve McClaren, The FA will settle for the best English manager around. And that's what this is -- settling for Harry Redknapp. This is not to say that The FA is incompetent or that Harry Redknapp's a bad manager. He just hasn't achieved what a manager should have achieved if he's getting hired by a country whose aspiration is to win the World Cup.
Toss aside all of your personal feelings on these issues for a second. It doesn't really matter if England's goals are unreachable, if The FA actually is incompetent or whether or not Harry is a good manager. If a national team's goal is to win a World Cup in the short term, they are settling if they hire a manager who has never won his domestic league, Champions League, the World Cup or an international continental championship.
In 2006, all of those criteria applied to England and Steve McClaren.
There are a couple of differences between Harry Redknapp and Steve McClaren. Harry Redknapp has won the FA Cup, McClaren had won only the League Cup when he was hired. McClaren's Middlesborough side finished sixth in his best year, while Redknapp has a fourth place finish under his belt and is about to have another finish of fourth or higher. Harry is probably The FA's first choice, while Luiz Felipe Scolari was their first choice in 2006.
Other than that, they're eerily similar, and not just because they're both English. Both of them have won very little. Neither of them have managed the best of the best. Both have -- or had shortly before taking the England job -- loose and old-school management styles. Because Brian Clough was a thing, this was (and is) seen as a positive.
On May 4, 2006, McClaren was introduced as the new England boss. This came a day after his team's second to last Premier League game and six days before the UEFA Cup final. Boro were not in a European or relegation race, so he played his kids on the final day of the Premier League season. Going into the UEFA Cup final, there was speculation about whether or not his team would be focused. After the game, there were questions about much more than that.
I wasn't at the ground on that day and I certainly wasn't in the locker room, so I can't tell you how motivated the Boro players were, but they got smoked. Completely outplayed, whistle to whistle. I remember watching that game, 17-year-old me laughing my ass off that this team was managed by the next manager of England.
Sevilla's fullbacks -- especially Daniel Alves -- were completely untested by Boro's wingers and were allowed to run the game. Fullbacks, allowed to run the game! Luis Fabiano's opening goal was the third or fourth chance that should have been scored, and it was a miracle that Boro were only down one at halftime. Eventually, McClaren took off a midfielder and threw on Yakubu. His leading scorer. Who did not start the game. Inserted for a midfielder, when his team was getting dominated in possession.
The result was predictable, as Sevilla dominated possession further. It took until the 78th minute for them to find their second goal. They found two more after that and won 4-0. Incredibly, the score did not tell the story. Boro could have lost by eight. They were terrible. McClaren's tactics and a lack of focus were both almost certainly to blame.
This is what happened to Middlesborough when their manager was poached with just two games remaining in the season. McClaren and his team were completely unfocused for arguably the biggest match in the club's history, and they failed miserably.
If Harry Redknapp becomes England's manager, he will not be named manager with two games remaining. He will be named manager with at least a month remaining, if not two. In 2006, England had Sven-Goran Eriksson to lead them through the World Cup. England currently has Stuart Pearce at the helm, and it would be ridiculous to let him keep the reigns until June.
It's possible that Harry decides that the media pressure of the England job isn't for him. It's possible that Daniel Levy, in true Daniel Levy fashion, tells them to go f--- themselves. It's possible that The FA realizes that hiring Redknapp is lunacy. But more likely than not, Harry Redknapp will be named the England manger with a few games remaining. Hopefully, Harry and The FA are nice enough to wait until after the Chelsea match on March 25.