For the sake of my sanity and on good medical authority (because you would have to be extraordinarily retarded to put on such a show), I can safely say that Brian Barwick and the Football Association (and while we’re at it, the Premier League as well), have England’s best interests at heart.
Perhaps this is more troubling than the alternative (that BB is out to screw England royally), because it tells us that the people who run football in England are out of touch with reality and lack the vision and understanding of football (and politics) to do the right thing.
Take the FA’s current farcical search for the next England manager. I missed Eriksson’s appointment but I’m pretty certain it was driven by the same mindset – to hire a foreigner with a commendable track record. They’ve gone the same route again, but with the caveat of asking leading figures in the media (as opposed to the best footballing minds – John T and Stevie G, come on!).
The need to get a second opinion is a sign of progress, but it raises two very important questions –
One, was England in SUCH a bad position that we could find no one else but Steve McClaren, Martin O’Neill, Stuart Pearce and Sam Allardyce to audition for the post of England manager?
Two, if Brian Barwick needs input from Michel Platini (a man with an agenda, as witnessed by his proclamation that England should hire an ‘English’ manager), John Toshack (not exactly Lippi, you know), Beckenbauer (respect but rent-a-quote Franz?) and the likes of Stevie G and John T, is he really qualified to do the job of selection himself when he doesn’t know who to ask for help?
The answer to #1, we’ll probably never know. What is clear is that this time around, the FA want to rectify their mistakes and are conscious of wanting to do and especially appearing to do the right thing.
For #2 though, the situation is a joke. Asking Wenger, Fergie, Beckenbauer and Charlton are good ideas, but what will they tell him that he doesn’t know? That the England players need to play to their strengths? That they need a motivating force? That they need a manager they can respect? That they need someone who can adequately deflect the pressure off the players? That they need someone who is tactically astute and able to turn games around?
There is no perfect candidate for this post, there never is. There are potential candidates, and the likes of Mourinho, Lippi, Capello and Klinsmann are all good options (although in my view K needs some time at club level). Mourinho advantage of knowing the players and the language is tempered by his inability to get his teams to tactically shift gears in high-value games (champions league semifinals, anyone?), although his powers of motivation are incredible and his ability to get the most out of players is what counts.
If no one else wants to come onboard, we know that Capello is interested and he would be a solid appointment, so what’s the need to spend time listening to others? Is Wenger going to point out a 14-yr old genius manager from Senegal who could lead England to World Cup glory in South Africa? Does Ferguson know a manager no one else does? Do you really think that the managers who are successful at club level or preparing for Euro 2008 would come and manage the poisoned chalice that is the England hotseat?
Few people want the job. Mourinho and Capello are the only ones I would back unconditionally, despite the fact that Capello has language issues and Mourinho is a ticking timebomb and will cause nightmares for the FA public relations department.
So by all means, Mr Barwick, take your time in appointing a manager with world-class credentials. It is a bit disappointing that you don’t have people in mind already or that you haven’t approached the best replacements immediately (and allowed other clubs / teams a chance to snap them up first).
I can only hope that you get the right man this time. Because while I can go to Euro 2008 supporting Italy and making a play for hot fans, I don’t think South Africa 2010 can afford not to have England present.