Around now we’d normally be soaking up the first full week of games in the World Cup, but instead we’ve had four rounds of UEFA Nations League fixtures as consolation. Whether you agree or disagree with UEFA’s latest international venture, there’s definitely a stigma surrounding it.
Some couldn’t care less, calling them glorified friendlies, while some think they are perfect major competition preparation. In reality, if your nation is winning, the former speaks loudest but If results are poor, like England’s, the pressure ramps up.
To add to our own interest, some City players have been involved.
Grant Hanley has been a mainstay in the Scotland team (joined by a less-than-impressive Billy Gilmour), while Przemysław Płacheta and Tim Krul have been in the Poland and Holland squads respectively, albeit neither have yet made an appearance. Dimitris Giannoulis has only featured for five minutes so far for Greece, with Norwich City compatriot Christos Tzolis being in their Under 21 squad.
Teemu Pukki scored earlier this month for Finland against Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Danel Sinani bagged a brace for Luxembourg against Lithuania, and Milot Rashica racked up two assists in Kosovo’s 3-2 win against Northern Ireland.
Things haven’t been going as well for England though, with the Three Lions failing to win any of their first three games. Many have criticised Gareth Southgate’s conservative football, with some calling for him to be sacked ahead of the World Cup.
So, we have a manager who’s taken England to their only major final since 1966 and a World Cup semi-final with his job in question.
As a result, odds for his potential successor are now available.
Some of the usual suspects appear. Among the favourites are Eddie Howe, Graham Potter, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard but some unexpected names appeared too like Arsene Wenger, David Beckham and, would you believe, Chris Hughton!
The one that took me aback most however was our own Dean Smith who is listed at 12/1 with PaddyPower and is a joint-fifth favourite.
By comparison, you can get the same odds on Pep Guardiola being the new England manager. Admittedly, Pep would probably be the FA’s preferred choice but it’s odd to see Deano’s 35 per cent win ratio being perceived good enough to be even considered.
At least there’d be no doubt of Jack Grealish’s involvement if the former Villa boss took the reins for the Three Lions.
While it’s unlikely Southgate is facing pressure internally, it’s worth considering. The English FA have favoured English managers in recent years, with Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello the only exceptions.
Graham Potter seems to be the people’s choice and appears most likely to take the role if things take a serious turn for the worse. Gerrard is up there too in the betting and is one I’d say also likely to take the job if offered. With Howe now managing ‘the richest club in the world’ I doubt that one would come to fruition.
Another favourite is Sean Dyche who would no doubt jump at the chance to manage England. Personally, I would love to see him in charge of England and was disappointed to see him sacked by Burnley.
While there’s a lot of confusion and surprise about Dean Smith’s high placing on the odds, I can see why he’d be considered. After all, Southgate took charge of the national team following an unimpressive managerial career.
Prior to his appointment at Middlesbrough, the side had finished runners-up in the UEFA Cup. Three seasons later, they were relegated and Southgate was sacked. He then spent three years in charge of England’s Under-21 side where his side, which contained Nathan Redmond and Alex Pritchard, finished rock-bottom of their 2015 European Championship group.
Smith meanwhile performed miracles with Walsall, created a reputation of being “the Championship’s entertainers” at Brentford, and then guided Aston Villa to promotion and kept them up.
He’s had some bad luck at City with COVID and injuries disrupting an already poor squad, and while City finished 16 points adrift, there was an improvement on Daniel Farke’s leadership in the Premier League.
If approached, I highly doubt Smith would turn down the role but it would be a backdoor appointment if ever there was one.