Friday, December 7, 2007

'coach' is not just a designer handbag

The five names in the frame are Marcello Lippi, Fabio Capello, Martin O'Neill, Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klinsmann. Feelers are understood to have already gone out. [...] It is clear that Barwick, who also talked to Steven Gerrard in the last 24 hours, is moving fast.


Come now, Mr Barwick, I understand he doesn't do much for England these days, but surely he has a couple of seasons left in him before he takes up his place on the bench?


One of the things I find hard to adjust to in football is how fine the line between idle gossip and institutional wisdom is. In cricket it is generally observed that the opinion of the punter on the street stands at a respectful[-lish] distance from the prohibitively arcane, complex systems of knowledge that govern the game and the machinations of those who manage it [and, I'm always happy to note, several of those who write about it]. One does not simply walk around saying, "Oh, let's get that top bloke Dav Whatmore in to manage this team," and then have the BCCI turn around and actually offer the job to Mr Whatmore; one walks around saying "Oh, let's get Dav Whatmore in to manage this team" knowing full well that, when the time is right, the sahibs at the BCCI will pull out of their hat a name with which one's limited cognitive abilities have dreamed up no prior associations. There's always someone up there who knows better than you, the average cricket fan [which is what I am] is reassured in feeling.

This sense of comfort is entirely absent when our attention turns to English football. When the post of manager fell vacant and the names began to ring in, one of the earliest we heard of was Fabio Capello. "Wow," the murmur arose. "Capello?" "Yeah?" "Yeah." "Well, too bad they couldn't get Lippi." "Oh, honestly, Lippi is way better suited to managing a national team than Capello." "Also, wouldn't it be fun if Mourinho came back to England?" "Mourinho! Would he -- but. Nah." "He just might." "It's probably going to be Martin O'Neill." "There's always Klinsmann." "Oh, Klinsmann." "Yeah, Klinsi." "Klinsi." "Klinsi."

Late night musings over Google Talk? FA meeting? One simply can't tell. Of course, football being the democratic, populist, WYSIWIG sport it is, it's no surprise that it operates differently [and in England, at that] from the way cricket does in India. People like to be in on these things. We all like to feel like our wishes are being taken into consideration, even if we are only modestly-paid midfield lynchpins of humble stature called Steven Gerrard. Perhaps it's only right that the views of the tabloid-reading taxpayer are represented in full and without qualification in the views of the FA.

With democracy comes meritocracy, after all. Certainly the FA's pursuit of names like Lippi [who constantly leads us to believe that he is completely uninterested in coaching in England, or anywhere that isn't his big sexy yacht off Sardinia] shows a committment to bring in the most famous best man for the job unseen in the workings of other football organisations. Brian Barwick's behaviour, as such, is a lesson that comes too late to the likes of the Italian football association's Demetrio Albertini, who didn't think twice before operating in Italian football's tried-and-tested, it's-who-you-know-not-what way* and appointing Roberto Donadoni to the post vacated by Papa Lippi.

O Demetrio, had you but called Francesco Totti before making your decision, Italian football might not have come to th--what? Oh.

+ item: Since the last post on this blog, a UEFA record has been broken by Pippo Inzaghi, a footballer so avant-garde that reasons to like him are still being invented. Ave, Pipterino.

-- * of course, the only word we have on this is Luciano Moggi's.


Spangly Princess said...

I hope you're not casting doubt on the integrity of Signor Moggi or any of his utterances?!

Martha said...

While the English FA are undeniably very interested in the approval of the public, I'm not sure it's fair to suggest the punters are making their decisions for them. I mean, Mourinho and Capello are not exactly dark horses, are they? I can't imagine Barwick and Co sitting around with question mark floating above their heads, and only coming up with those names after reading them in a forum, or something. (I mean, I can, but most of me doubts it happened that way.) Plus, meeting with Stevie Gerrard could just as easily be so the papers will say "Oh, they met with Stevie G? Right. Well done, then." as because they actually care what he thinks.

And, as sensitive as they are to the beast that is public opinion, the FA also know that, in the end, it doesn't matter who they pick because if the team win, that beast will love them. So putting Philippe Troussier in change might get Barwick nearly lynched, but once he started winning games, they'd both be hailed as geniuses. (Oh, and he would win games!)

??! said...

So this is to be main blog now? oh well.

What I love most about the whole affair is that they consulted Alex Ferguson. And Wenger.

Who probably went - Oh yeh, Jose, fine chap, perfect for the job.

And then turned round, sniggering away, going "Perfect for making ya look like shite, ya limey bashturds", and "Zees English are such fools, n'est-pas?", respectively.

roswitha said...

Sp. Princess: Would I ever?

Martha: No no, I'm merely suggesting that the minds of the FA and of the punters are as one on this, a state of agreement that rarely appears to exist between other institutions and their proles. :)

What particularly strikes me about this is that life seems to have borrowed from reality TV in the way this Coach Hunt is going so far. All this glamour, all this talk, all this overexposure. I'm not used to it.

[And don't even tell me they aren't capable of calling Stevie to butter him up. I'm so sure the FIGC'd have given Totts the same treatment if they'd thought of it. Maybe they did, actually ...]

@ ??! - I keep meaning to update at the other blog, but the words don't come! Will keep trying. :)

I think it's cute they're making such a project out of it, personally. Coming out of the 'wake up one fine Monday, find Gary Kirsten as head coach of India' non-event, I'm enjoying this extravaganza. As, no doubt, are Wenger and the Ferg.

Martha said...

The thought of the FIGC consulting with Totti makes me ill. Though you probably knew that.

(And if they CALL Stevie G, the tabloids won't have pictures. That's nowhere near as good.)

Spangly Princess said...

today we have football/designer bag synchronicity! frankly the thought that one person is odd enough to dream up such a nexus is bizarre, never mind two of us!

ursus arctos said...

I noted this as well, and figured that you were trying to corner some obscure Google market on "Birkin and Totti" or something of the sort.

I think our host may be overestimating the support of White Van Men for fancy foreign blokes like Don Fabio or Mago Lippi. Surely the tabs keep throwing names like Shearer, Redknapp and Venables into the mix because they believe it resonates with their readership, no?

And it is much easier to say now that the Azzurri have qualifed, but I actually think the Totti flap worked out well in the end. It made it much easier to marginalise Del Piero, for instance, as well as allowing Quagliarella to come into the side. And France' is still making noises about coming back.

??! said...

but the words don't come
gasp! This cannot be! This must not be! ... actually, I understand.