The diary of a lower-league journeyman turned coach
Our manager-for-hire and roving reporter Iffy Onuora continues his ramble round the football landscape – and it's a bit slippy...
Hello there and welcome back from the cold – literally: as temperatures in the People’s Republic of Bristol soared from last week's Baltic depths into the balmy Med-like eight degrees.
And what of the footballing landscape since last we were together? Well my winter bunker didn’t allow me to escape the fact that there have been one or two race incidents of late circulating. I emerged blinking into a spring-like haze convinced it was 1985 again, with everyone reaching for the race card.
I think we shouldn’t let this window of opportunity pass us by. Why not scour the BBC and ITV archives and resurrect those bastions of cultural awareness Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language? (Younger readers should ask their elders, or skip a couple of paragraphs…)
You may laugh, but with more time on his hands than any man should really have, a cursory flick through the daytime TV wasteland revealed that ITV4 was repeating George and Mildred, a 1970s cultural icon about a hectored buffoon and his frustrated aspirational housewife.
It was rubbish then and if you can appreciate that time hasn’t done it any further favours, I think it’s safe to assume that its place in the pantheon of British TV is less than assured.
George and Mildred: Iffy TV
Where was I? (Well, quite… – Ed) Ah yes, the race card. All a little depressing and there's no need for me to add to the column inches, other than to say that I did wonder exactly how long I had been in my Bristol bunker – especially when I passed a nearby 80s retro night and had to fight temptation to don my MC Hammer baggy pants (kids, I’m on way back now, honestly!)
Of far more interest is the imminent arrival of Sir Harry of Redknapp as the next TOTHAAIHP (Target Of Tabloid Hatred After An Initial Honeymoon Period), aka England manager. I’m happy to add my small voice to support his coronation, but I’m just as interested in what the repercussions will be for him and some of the players.
For the latter, I think he’ll be a breath of fresh air after what was clearly a stifling influence under the previous TOTHAAIHP, Fabio Capello. In my humble experience, the arrival of a dominating figure like Capello can work on a short-term basis before the very attributes of forcefulness start to grate.
Did the sergeant-major schtick lose its effect?
Despite the one-dimensional nature of Sir Alex Ferguson’s public image, his great strength is undoubtedly an ability to relate on a human level with multimillionaires, some of whom could be his grandchildren. For all his qualities as a football man (and as someone younger than Sir Alex), Capello never struck me as someone who could do the same. You can argue all you like about cosseted players and youngsters generally, but that’s one genie that WON'T be going back into the bottle anytime soon.
Man-management is the one quality at international level that’s needed more than any other, and it's a quality abundantly found in Sir Harry. (I’m pre-judging here, looking forward to winning Euro 2012 against the odds, and a country basking in patriotic Olympic fervour.)
That’s not to say that beneath the charm Sir Harry’s not got a ruthless streak. Plenty of player have felt an icy blast across the bows in the past having crossed him, like Darren Bent, unfavourably compared to Sir Harry’s wife in terms of chances taken.
The make-up of the squad will be fascinating. I don’t think the Ferdinand-Terry axis will cause problems, as some suggest. A quick pre-tournament hatchet-burying will suffice: the lure of one last major tournament for both players will be enough to let things be forgotten, if not forgiven, for the duration. After that, and with the Terry court case in July, all other bets are off.
Will JT and Rio bury the hatchet for a month?
The great Paul Scholes has also been mentioned – and watching him strut his still considerable stuff, it’s no surprise, and confirmation that class is permanent. Xavi, Iniesta and others may be too much for him – but group opponents Sweden, France and Ukraine? In the possible absence of his heir apparent Jack Wilshere, it would be a great option – and having retired prematurely, the chance of a final swansong may be irresistible for such a competitive character.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the possibility of Arsenal’s young tyro Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making it on to the plane. It would certainly make more sense than Theo Walcott going to Germany in 2006. Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly has the edge on the 17-year-old Walcott – in fact seasoned Arsenal observers suggest that he may already have the edge on the current 23-year-old Walcott.
It will be a fascinating watch, and may come down to each player’s versatility in different positions. How ironic it may be if the current Tottenham manager can coax the best out of Walcott – possibly playing in a more central role for his country – than the current Arsenal manager, for whom he remains an enigma. Let’s not forget that Sir Harry managed Walcott at Southampton for a brief period too.
There will be other selections to ponder, and no doubt Sir Harry will be lauded in some quarters, derided in others for the bold/conservative/mystifying nature of his selections. He’ll know that already and be ready for it, and his experience will count for much in handling it. His prominent family grounding will serve him well here, and I wonder if his son Jamie may take up a role in the background, respected player and pundit that he is.
And although I don’t expect to see a place for Lady Redknapp in the backroom staff, there must surely be a place for Rosie the dog. She was surely the undoubted star of the court case – so dress her up in a St George's coat and pretend she’s a bulldog, and we’re laughing!
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Spain seal major tournament treble
UEFA dishes out dosh to clubs for Euro 2012
Russia win appeal against Euro 2012 sanction
Nasri banned over behaviour at Euro 2012
Van der Wiel critical of compatriot Robben
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010