Years ago, when Terry Venables was about to retire as England manager, I offered my services to the F.A., and applied for the job. Rather graciously, they wrote back and turned me down.
More than a decade later, the game is still a mess. They’ve obviously learned nothing. So after the recent Switzerland game, I wrote to the F.A. again.
Dear Brian Barwick,
I went to watch England last night. It was another anxious ninety minutes, deja vu all over again. But I have a theory, and I believe I have the solution.
Collectively, England players have three major problems.
1) They assume they merely have to show up to beat ‘smaller’ teams. Quite where this misplaced sense of superiority comes from I’ve no idea, although I suspect it might have something to do with us once having an Empire.
2) Conversely, they suffer from a crippling fear that this might not be the case; that San Marino can make them look stupid (as they once did) or that ‘minnows’ like Croatia might actually be a much better side (which they are).
3) It’s obviously a psychological issue, which makes things worse, because the last thing the average English footballer – David James aside – wants to consider is that there might be a cerebral aspect to the game. It’s all, blood, thunder and God Save The Queen, innit?
So if we assume that we don’t want to return to the desperate days of Glen Hoddle’s empty-headed quackery (the man is quite clearly a maniac) we’ve got to look for a solution that relies on the few aspects of the English footballer’s psyche that might – with a little prodding – become a positive: the fear of losing their place in the side.
Assumed wisdom in soccer circles – if there is such a thing – suggests that the introduction of a new manager spices things up: with the slate wiped clean, the players who’ve been coasting realise they need to prove themselves again, while those previously excluded are given a second chance. It’s all hands to the pumps.
So here’s my solution: employ a whole series of managers, but restrict their involvement with the national side to two games apiece. In the first game of each series, the players will be fighting for their places in the second. In the second, the players will be desperate to impress the new manager they know is coming in for game number three. As an added bonus, the involvement of managers clearly out of their depth (like Steve McClaren, for instance) will be kept to a minimum.
Please let me know if you’d like to discuss my idea further.
(England fan #55355280)
PS. Did you know that Fabio Capello is an anagram of ‘I, Capable Fool’?
And guess what? No reply.
I pay through the teeth and go to every home game. I eat the ridiculously over-priced food. I put up with the queues. I watch the national side under-performing again and again and again. I suffer.
And when I offer to solve the crisis (for free, mind), they ignore me.
It’s no wonder the sport is going to the dogs.