After spells leading the United States of America and Denmark, my international management expertise has clearly done me wonders as my home country of England came calling after Euro 2032.
I was all set to turn my back on international football for a while and focus on the impossible task with Cagliari. But it was pretty difficult to turn down the England offer, especially as they were offering me more than triple the £25k-a-week I’m on in Sicily.
Speaking of new international managers… Eddie Howe had just left Bournemouth after 20 years to become France manager. Madness!
Nations League mumbo jumbo
My first task in charge of England is the Nations League group, which the FA don’t care about. But, that enables me to pick a first squad in charge of England.
13 years in, the squad still contains 7 real players in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Max Aarons, Nohan Kenneh, Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Giovanni Reyna. Another familiar name is, of course, former Sporting and Valencia striker Philip Cohen, who’s hopefully going to form a formidable strike partnership with Man United striker George Clarke.
That worked very nicely as we spanked Sweden 5-0 away in my first match as England boss, with Clarke bagging a hat-trick that took him to 29 goals in 41 caps and Everton winger Gavin Adebayo scoring on his debut.
And we bagged five again despite going behind early on at home to Turkey, then scoring twice in a minute. Cohen got his first goal for me with England – and his 41st in total – and 20-year-old Chelsea left-winger Lewis Pearson-Elsdon scored his first international goal and got 3 assists.
This England team showed just how good they are by thumping Spain 3-0 with Clarke scoring his 30th goal for his country, a Foden screamer and Adebayo put the seal on the win.
We then hammered Sweden 4-0 with a Clarke brace and a Cohen goal in 5 first-half minutes then another Foden screamer after the break.
The good start continued as we went to Turkey and won 2-0 with goals from Stockbridge and an excellent free-kick by Greenwood, who replaced injured Pearson-Elsdon on the left. And we completed the group with a 100% record with a superb 3-1 win in Spain led by Cohen’s 43rd goal on the occasion of his 75th cap and a Sancho brace.
Nations League Finals
We headed to the Nations League Finals with several injuries affecting the squad. The main one was Clarke picking up a thigh injury, while Pearson-Elsdon was also sidelined.
We took on 2026 world champions Portugal in the semi-final. They had a fairly ageing squad that included my former Sporting players Daniel Braganca and Eduardo Quaresma (34 and 31), Joao Felix and Florentino Luis (both 33) and Fabio Silva (30). A relatively dull game saw us dominate the chances and sneak through 1-0 with a goal by centre-back Will Reddie.
That took us into the Final against France, who’d just lost 91 goals in 184 caps Kylian Mbappé to international retirement and were managed by Eddie Howe. They took an early lead, Cohen grabbed an equaliser but they got in front again just before the break through Chelsea striker Clement Andre. Then nothing happened in the second half, despite going attacking, and we lost 2-1.
Next time, we’ll return to lead England’s World Cup qualifying group up against Switzerland, Slovakia, Israel and Azerbaijan.