Why Sam Allardyce is perfect for England
Within minutes of the final whistle blowing at the Stade de France, reports had emerged that the Football Association was planning talks with Sam Allardyce over the vacant England manager's job. As distractions from a forgettable tournament go, you can't help but think they could have tried a little harder.
Allardyce is not a man who many would describe as inspirational. He has been described, on separate occasions, as 'a bulldog chewing a wasp' and 'a man not afraid to eat a packet of crisps whilst taking a shite'. He's a teamsheet-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet manager - the telly-abuser down the pub, if he was hosed down, scraped into a Marks & Spencer suit like sausage into its casing, and groomed by terrified students holding combs and razors on the end of a broom 10 feet away so as to avoid touching his flesh.
Except he's simultaneously all of those things and none of those things at the same time. His teams' agricultural style is both enhanced by his outward appearance and diminished by it.
He'll go from playing James Tomkins in midfield to converting Jermain Defoe into a sophisticated number 10. From signing Abdoulaye Faye three times to picking up Antonio Nocerino and Wahbi Khazri. He signed Mario Jardel - Mario Jardel! - for fucking Bolton.
And that's why he'd make the perfect England manager.
Before Euro 2016, a few pundits suggested Italy could be surprise favourites on the basis of having Antonio Conte in charge. Conte, people said, was the best manager by some distance, streets ahead of a very ordinary field.
In short, the international management game is no longer at the elite level it arguably was before the turn of the century.
It's no secret that club football is where the top managers want to be. There's the luxury of working with players for much longer periods of time, and few seem put off by the lack of job security - perhaps, in part, because few international coaches stay in their post for that long either.
You need someone malleable, someone capable of figuring out a plan based on the players at his disposal, rather than attempting to fit square pegs into round holes. 'Big Sam' is known to have his favourites, but he at least tends to recognise when it's time to ease them into the background. Sure, he'd have taken Wayne Rooney to Euro 2016, but he wouldn't have been stupid enough to play him in midfield in 30-degree heat. He's spent enough time around Kevin Nolan to know how that one ends.
Highlight of today came when Silva got injured and Nolan, who had been on the pitch for all of two minutes, went to the touchline for water
— Tom Victor (@tomvictor) April 19, 2015
I don't say this lightly. As a West Ham supporter, I've been there for the highs, the lows, and the other lows that were somehow lower than the original lows.
We're talking about a manager whose team were once booed off after winning. Someone who, over the course of one 90 minute game, used no fewer than five players who had turned out at left-back earlier that season. Someone who once named a five-man substitute bench consisting of five forwards and no goalkeeper.
As we saw with Louis van Gaal's Tim Krul moment at the 2014 World Cup, international football needs mavericks. Tournament football is a game of small margins, and no one will talk about your dominance in qualifying when they look at your bench in a quarter-final and see broken midfielders, teenage strikers and some nondescript guy who you assume is a low-level physio but actually turns out to be Tom Heaton.
Sure, it won't be fun - hell, it'll barely be tolerable - but if we're being honest with ourselves we've never fully enjoyed watching England at a major tournament.
The 'fun' normally comes with the hype over qualifying and the excitement over young talent. Allardyce won't fall into that trap, no siree. He'll chuck all of your favourite Man United and Arsenal kids into an experimental 5-3-1-1 against Norway, lose 4-1, and convince you he tried but it'll never work.
It's time for England to bypass hope and fast forward to misery, and that'll make the eventual brute-force glory all the more satisfying. If Portugal can do it after one 90-minute win from seven, then why can't we?