Watching Steve McLaren at his press conference after England's lugubrious victory over Andorra was like watching a man who had his soul sucked away. Ashen faced, fidgety, defensive, and most tellingly in-confident.
Coaching is not an exact science and when it comes to extracting the best out of your team, the X factor is your belief in your boys and in turn, their belief in you. It still comes down to that basic tenet. Great coaches like Alf Ramsey, Bill Shankly, Franz Beckenbauer, Tele Santana, Guus Hiddink, and Marcelo Lippi technically might be of the same caliber as many other coaches but they believed in something entirely different and are willing to go that far. It starts with the belief that your boys are the ones to carry out that vision.
Santana is a case in point. Brazil in the 80's played some of the most creative and free flowing soccer through players like Socrates, Zico, Falcao, and Eder. Players loved playing for Santana because he gave free reign to their attacking flair and instinct and thumbed his nose at the establishment that wanted victory through drudgery. Many credit Lippi's success to his belief in dark horses like Fabio Grosso and Andrea Pirlo in his strategy to revamp the defensive mindset of the Azzurris.
McLaren comes across as a suit. It is a shame because the best English player is Aaron Lennon who has done his time in the U-21s and needs his creative spark nurtured beyond club football. Unfortunately, McLaren appears too pedantic for that responsibility. Look at Lennon's genius (3:58) leading to a Tainio goal as Tottenham goes onto shell shock West Ham. It's there.
I think the concept of taking one for your country is too overplayed. Nationalism is a bit of an abstraction not easily understood by players overfed a diet of club football. Taking one for your coach might be the more direct route to success but then your coach has to inspire that quality.