Peter Young
24 September 2004
England Football Online
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Backward Thinking
24 September 2004

The "exclusive" report in yesterday's Daily Mirror that there is serious consideration within the F.A. of making the England head coach/managerial job part-time is poppycock.  If anyone put forward that proposal, he was either kidding or an idiot.   

Can you imagine manager X leading club X into the European Champions’ Cup final while he also prepares England for the World Cup or European Championship final tournament?  Quite apart from that nightmare scenario, the head coaching job is a full-time one if done properly.  There may be some weeks when Sven-Göran Eriksson does not put in 40 hours, but there are many more when he puts in 60 or 70 or even more. 

The England managerial post has been full-time since Alf Ramsey took over in 1962.  His predecessor, Walter Winterbottom, worked full-time for England, but had two jobs, manager of the national side and national coaching director.   Those were simpler times, though, and Winterbottom, who did not have team selection power, did not spend nearly the time later England head coaches have in choosing the England squad and preparing it.  We’d be highly surprised if any of the former England managers/head coaches still alive—Ron Greenwood, Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor, Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan—consider it possible to do the job properly on a part-time basis while also leading a Premiership club. 

Making the job part-time would be a giant step backwards.  It would put us on a level with some of the football minnows.  Every national team with any pretensions to competing at the highest level has a full-time head man. 

No doubt the story is a trial balloon floated by someone primarily interested in asserting club power over the England set-up.  That balloon should be—and will be—pierced quickly.

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Badfellas
21 September 2004

We’ve just finished reading Badfellas: FIFA Family at War (Mainstream Publishing, London, 2003), John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson’s latest exposé of the organisation that runs the game worldwide.  It’s a fascinating account of the intrigue and corruption that surround FIFA operations. 

We were relieved to discover our scathing criticisms a few years ago of the Football Association’s disastrous World Cup 2006 hosting bid were more than justified.  We were also reminded of the role the F.A. played in Sepp Blatter’s ascendancy to the FIFA presidency in 1998.  It voted for Blatter, switching at the last-minute from its support of Lennart Johansson, UEFA’s president, who had promised to bring transparency and reform to FIFA in the wake of the murky financial dealings surrounding Brazilian João Havelange’s quarter of a century in the FIFA presidency. 

Blatter, long-time FIFA executive secretary under Havelange, was the Brazilian’s man, and his victory ended any hopes that FIFA would become more democratic and open.  It ensured that FIFA’s highly questionable dealings remained secret, immune from review, and that FIFA would continue to do business as usual, behind closed doors.  The F.A.’s switch, just another in a long line of unprincipled actions it took in connection with its obviously doomed World Cup hosting bid, came because Johansson was firmly committed to Germany’s bid.  

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Who's Childish - Not to Mention Hypocritical?
21 September 2004

“Childish” was the word of the moment as the English football media and many football big-wigs, including Sepp Blatter, vented their rage at England’s players for having the audacity to refuse to speak to the media following their 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory against Poland.  The players were objecting to abuse from the media in the wake of their 2-2 qualifying draw with Austria a few days earlier.  They made it clear they were not protesting mere criticism, but stories that went well beyond that.

Who is it that is childish, we ask, when The Sun sends a donkey to Poland to play goal for England, and when the media in general, including the broadsheets, churn out endless reams of print devoted to the private sex lives of Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, national coach Sven-Göran Eriksson and other England figures, all of it boring and utterly irrelevant to team performance.  They devote their efforts to this kind of tripe while, with rare exception, leaving FIFA’s mismanagement of the game unexamined, bought off by a few free drinks and trinkets passed out as gifts.

When one is abused, it makes eminent sense to stop dealing with those who do the abusing.  The fact that the players are well-paid does not, as some of the blinkered idiots who write for the national press apparently believe, mean they must put up with abuse without protest. 

The English media are not strong on introspection, however, and not a word of criticism, much less abuse, appeared about the way the media cover the England players.  Instead, they almost universally claimed the England players’ refusal to talk was disrespectful to England fans and deprived young stars Jermaine Defoe and Paul Robinson of their chance to talk to the media about their performances against Poland.

Frankly, all the boycott deprived the media of was another opportunity to make fun of the players' continual invocations of “at the end of the day,” “massive” and “you know.”  We’ve rarely seen a comment worth reading from England’s players.

We’d wager that some of the media hypocrites who cover the England team are well-known in foreign brothels.  Fuelled with drink and armed with foul mouths and vicious tempers, some of them have made idiots of themselves at various venues around the world over the years.

Their hypocrisy never dawns on them.  A year or two ago, one of the nation’s leading sport journalists transferred from a financially troubled newspaper to another of more prestige at a much higher salary.  Among his first columns for his new newspaper was one blasting Rio Ferdinand for lack of loyalty in moving from financially troubled Leeds United to Manchester United for more money.