England job is a poisoned chalice they're all scared of


Last updated at 21:32 24 November 2007

If Brian Barwick is feeling aggrieved this

Sunday morning, then we should not blame

him. He carries in his inside pocket one of the

most prestigious contracts in world sport. He is

desperate to make some lucky fellow rich and

famous and manager of England. Yet nobody is

taking his calls.

On he goes, from door to door, meeting face

after shifty face: "Arsene? There's no Arsene at

this address, mate" . . . "Jose, you say? Doesn't

ring a bell" . . . "Martin? He told me to tell you

he's in a meeting. Won't be out this year. Sorry."

And poor Barwick shuffles on, fingering the contract

and cursing his luck. It's not as if he's offering a

contemptible deal. The salary starts at about £3million

and is open to negotiation. The hours are not

taxing, matches are few and far between and, for the

foreseeable future, the summers are free.

Yet people

are being trampled in the rush to escape. It is as if he

were pushing shares in Northern Rock. Or poison


Some of the refuseniks would have suited the Football

Association chief executive quite well.


Wenger is the dream candidate who would not

dream of standing.

Jose Mourinho's ambitions lie


Martin O'Neill, having been rejected last

time, has taken a cold look at his prospective

employers, and rejected them out of hand.

Steve Coppell is not interested, likewise Alan

Curbishley, while Alan Shearer is patently unqualified.

Incidentally, Sam Allardyce has announced that he does not wish to be

considered, but then, so has my Aunt

Kitty — the difference being that my

Aunt Kitty is not open to persuasion.

As one perceptive critic put it: "The most

interesting names are not interested,

while those interested are not interesting."

And there are good, serious, disturbing

reasons for that state of affairs.

Brian Barwick and Geoff Thompson

The fate of Steve McClaren crystallises

what the job of England manager has

become. From the moment he signs his

contract,he places himself in the nation's

stocks. If he is fortunate, he will quickly

become a figure of fun; if not, he will be

the object of hatred and contempt.

His every decision will be assessed and

castigated by a jury in possession of

sharp pens, even sharper tongues and

the telephone number of a phone-in


His every statement, public

and private, will be scrutinised for

evidence of bias, prejudice or simple


His private life will be deemed fair game, his professional life will be

played out in the knowledge that every

error will be taken down and used in

evidence against him.

He will be ludicrously over-praised on

the good days and viciously traduced on

the bad.

And if things do go badly, then

he need not expect understanding from

his employers, loyalty from his assistants

or full-hearted support from his perfidious


And things will go badly,

because expectations are impertinently high. Time and again, he will hear Englishmen

begin sentences with the words:

"We have no divine right . . ." What they

mean is precisely the opposite. He will

not meet those expectations.

Instead, and this is as inevitable as

death or taxation, he will suddenly be

deemed a failure. People will become

bored by the sight and sound of him.


shall hear that it is time for a change,

whereupon the manager will be dead

meat.His pockets will then be filled with the residue of his contract and he will be

on his way with cameras flashing, pens

slashing and the public rejoicing at his


That is the way it works. That is the

way it has always worked. And it shows

no signs of changing. Wenger understands,

O'Neill understands, even the

hubristic Mourinho must surely realise

that an England managerial contract is

the equivalent of a professional death


Which is why the bright new dawn is

on hold,why the job — if not impossible

— is certainly undesirable, and why

nobody is currently taking Brian

Barwick's calls.

I have no useful suggestions, no remedies

to offer the old chap as he trudges

from door to door. Except this. If he can

get the starting salary up to £5m, then I

can give him a number for my Aunt


She may yet be his best bet.

Football girls deserve an Olympic chance

Richard Caborn is

not a man given to outbursts,

so when he starts

using phrases like "a national disgrace",

we do well to listen.

The former Sports Minister,

now ambassador for England's

World Cup bid for 2018, had

hoped that a Great Britain

women's football team would

be going to next year's

Olympics in Beijing.


followed England's

achievement in qualifying in third place among the

European nations in the

summer's World Cup.

It was here that politics raised

its unseemly head. Scotland,

Wales and Northern Ireland

would not endorse the idea of a

British team taking part, as

they fear it would threaten

their existence as independent

football nations.

The result is

that a team with a genuine

chance of winning a medal will

be denied Olympic competition, while Sweden and

Denmark — who finished

below England at the World

Cup — are playing off for

England's place.

Caborn is furious, and rightly

so. "At a time when we are

spending huge amounts of

money on the 2012 Olympics it

is bloody stupid to deny our

girls their chance of Olympic

experience next year," he says.

He points out that football is

the fastest growing sport for women, that it is bringing in

youngsters from the inner cities

as never before and that he

believes a British women's

team in the 2012 London

Olympics could prove one of

the highlights of the Games.

In short, says Caborn, this is

"a bloody scandal at a time

when the women's game

needs all the help it can get".

He has applied for a Commons

debate on the matter. I hope

he gets it.

Unusual place for a parade

Amid all those extraordinary

events at Wembley the other

evening, the presence of 30

British troops from the Army,

RAF and Royal Marines scarcely

merited a mention.

But having recently returned

from service in Iraq and

Afghanistan, they completed a

so-called 'Lap of Honour' before

England's match against

Croatia. And, for some of us, it

was a lamentable error.

Their courage and patriotism

were not in question. And while

some of us may believe that one

of those wars is, at best,

questionable and the other quite

possibly illegal, we accept that

the people prosecuting the

conflicts are acting from the

highest motives.

And yet there is

something disturbing about

those virtues being employed to

ratchet up patriotic emotions

before something so frivolous as

a game of football.

The British Forces Foundation,

the instigators of the idea, announced that they "do not

pass judgments on the rights

and wrongs of wars, but do

think that the people who serve

their country on behalf of the

Government they elect deserve

the utmost respect and

appreciation for what they do".

Which is taking the bleeding

obvious to unwarranted


The FA chairman Geoff

Thompson asked, with

clumping naivety: "Where better

than the National Stadium for

us to show our appreciation of

British men and women serving

their country around the world?"

And so, on the back of this

decidedly specious reasoning, a

group of service personnel

strolled around the pitch in

desert combats, waving to the

bemused crowd through the

torrential rain.

In America, they love to

wallow in ostentatious flagwaving

on major sporting

occasions. Over here, we tend to

be more discreet.

Sport is sport

and war is war and the two

should never be confused.

What happened at Wembley,

before a ball had been kicked the

other evening, struck me as

being not only wholly misplaced,

but curiously un-British.

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