The imaginations of old football hacks have been running
riot this week wondering how the England football managers of our time would
have handled the John Terry scandal. Leg over is nothing new in football,
but it takes on a different connotation when it affects dressing-room
harmony – particularly with a World Cup on the horizon.
Fabio Capello – from the land, don’t forget, of
Berlustconi (sic) – will discover from the following summary that most of
his predecessors were not
as equipped as he to deal with the fall out.
Walter Winterbottom (1946-62):
He had all
the responsibility but little of the power of managing England.
Ex-schoolteacher Walter was the puppet of a panel of selectors, mostly
chairmen of League clubs who would have had Terry thrown into the Tower in
Squeaky-clean Billy Wright was captain for 90 of Walter’s
matches in charge, and the nearest he came to a scandal was electing to
marry a divorcee, the gorgeous Joy Beverley, towards the end of his career.
Even that was met with frowns in certain quarters of the FA and the question
was heard: “Is this the sort of man we want captaining England?”
Alf Ramsey (1963-74): Alf was a cold disciplinarian,
who would have told Terry to his face that he was an idiot and would have
punished him by taking away the captain’s job. Bobby Moore was his captain
for 90 matches, and when he got involved in a dispute with West Ham –
drinking in a nightclub on the eve of an FA Cup tie at Blackpool – Alf
unceremoniously dropped him for the next England match.
In contrast, when Bobby was arrested on the trumped-up
jewel-theft charge in Colombia on the eve of the 1970 World Cup finals, Alf
stuck by him and instantly dismissed it as a South American plot. Alf
struggled not to be suspicious of anybody who spoke with a foreign tongue,
particularly if it was
laced with a Scottish burr.
Joe Mercer (1974):
Uncle Joe would
privately have had a good laugh about it, but publicly admonished Terry and
he would have let him keep the captain’s armband after getting him to shake
hands with Wayne Bridge. Yes, he was that good a diplomat and spin doctor.
Anybody who was close to Joe in his Man City days will tell you he kept many
a potential scandal from erupting by clever diplomacy, particularly when
dealing with the peccadilloes of his lovable, larger-than-life assistant
Don Revie (1974-77):
The Don would have
carefully calculated if Terry was vital to his game plan. If he considered
him irreplaceable, he would have got him to put his signature to a ghosted
apology that would have been released to the media. If he decided there were
players equally as good, he would have thrown him to the wolves. Any man
who, while manager of England,
could dress himself up as an Arab to get a new job was capable of anything.
Ron Greenwood (1977-82): I was the writer
who dubbed him Reverend Ron because of his sermonising and his
Christian-driven morals, this back in the local paper days when I used to
sit at his feet taking in his lessons on life in general and football
tactics in particular.
Ron would have been torn apart on this one, but would have
eventually told Terry that his position was untenable. The thought of a
player having an affair with a team-mate’s partner would have been abhorrent
Sir Bobby Robson (1982-1990):
As a man
who came under the media microscope for having an affair with not one but
two redheads, Bobby would have been tormented by this problem. Not
the most decisive of managers, I think he would have tried to ride the storm
with Terry still his captain, but would have ultimately tossed him out as
tabloid revelations continued, as may yet happen in the Terry case.
Graham Taylor (1990-93): The fact that he
could substitute his then skipper Gary Lineker during the 1992 Euro
championships suggests that the captain’s armband did not count too much
with Graham. My belief is that Terry would have been turfed out of a Taylor
team, but I am sure Graham will have an opinion on this while scrambling
around in his new role as saviour chairman of Watford.
His Dad was an excellent football journalist and would no
doubt have advised him to put the team first. It would have given The
Sun the chance to use the headline: “What A Turn Up”.
Terry Venables (1994-96): El Tel is
saving his opinion on the other Terry for his exclusive Saturday column in
The Sun. I reckon he would have had a tete-a-tete with each senior
player in his squad and then made a decision based on their views.
The Chelsea captain (a job Venners did until a mega
fall-out with Tommy Docherty) would, I am confident, have survived under the
Venables banner, provided upcoming revelations are not too damaging. He
would have been expert in showing John Terry how to survive a skin-scorching
investigation by the media.
Glenn Hoddle (1996-99):
Sorry Glenn, but
it is impossible not to think of you calling in supposed faith healer Eileen Drewery for her take on the Terry shenanigans. She would have no doubt
advised that he should pay for sins in this life and surrender the
captaincy. At least you have the satisfaction of giving Jasper Carrott one
of the great football jokes: “Glenn Hoddle has found God. It must have been
a heck of a pass.”
Kevin Keegan (1999-2000):
Kevin saves his opinions for ESPN, but when he was in charge of England I
bet he would have done his utmost to keep John Terry as captain. He is a
football man first and foremost and would have tried to divorce the private
matters from the on-field requirements. And if, as was likely, the FA had
interfered in his decision, he would no doubt have walked out. Kev was
always his own man.
Sven-Göran Eriksson (2001-06): Stop
laughing at the back there. What could Sven have done but support Terry,
given the bed-springing activities that were going on during his sweet FA
tenure? Sven (along with the likes of Tiger Woods and Max Mosley) can advise
Terry on how to endure the snigger factor that is going to become a major
Steve McLaren (2006-07): Nicknamed the
Wally with the Brolly, he proved he knew how to look after himself when he
covered himself with an umbrella in his last game as England manager.
McLaren would possibly have called in Max Clifford to help him deal with the
scandal, as he did when the media searchlight was turned on an affair that
he admitted to before taking the England job. No doubt he would have sat on
the fence until pushed into making a decision. John Terry would have
dictated the outcome, in his favour.
Fabio Capello cannot take much comfort from studying the
actions and attitudes of his predecessors, but he seems to me to be the kind
of strong man who will decide what is best for the team regardless of any
Me? I think Terry went a Bridge too far.