Judge me after twelve games. That was the plea when Steve McClaren took over as England manager. He was always struggling. When the England football team lost that twelfth game, the jury met to see that justice was done …
Or, in less metaphoric terms, the England Football team failed to reach the European Championships. This was failure on a scale last witnessed over a decade ago.
The jury (sorry, The FA board), called an emergency meeting for 8.30 the following morning, and gathered to report their verdict (sorry, decisions). A news conference was convened and by 10 am, chairman Professor Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards of the Premier league took the main roles.
They announced that the board has terminated the contracts of Coach Steve McClaren, and deputy coach Terry Venables. Brian Barwick (CEO) is to carry out a root-and-branch study, and report his findings back to the board together with a recommendation to the board for a new appointment. The recruitment process will take as long as it takes.
One minor saving factor for all concerned. There are no competitive internationals for a while, so it is implied that the decision can wait while before the next major campaign.
Journalists quizzed Brian Barwick. Wasn’t he just a weeny-bit responsible for hiring Mr McClaren in the first place?
Intervention from chair. Brian is CEO, but we as a board take shared responsibility for what has happened.
The accused speaks
Later, the lugubrious ex-manager had his say .
“It is a sad day to have been relieved of my duties but I understand the decision of the FA … It’s a huge disappointment for the nation and fans. But I will learn from my failure,”
His failure to qualify for Euro 2008 cost him his job, said FA chief executive Brian Barwick.
“I spoke to Steve this morning – we get on very well with him. I’ve had many grown-up conversations and had another one with him this morning – and I can only wish him well. But in the end, not qualifying for Euro 2008 comes up short” McClaren’s reign was the shortest tenure of any England coach.
Fantasy football in Westminster and beyond
This has been a good week in the UK for stories about bad leadership, in politics, business, and sport. There does seem to be a few patterns common to all. I’m not sure to what degree they capture a cultural rather than a universal theme.
The scuffles in the House of Commons are seeped in ancient rituals, with occasional efforts to find imaginative ways of yah-booing that stay within the letter of the law, if not in the spirit of Bagehot. George Osborne seems to thrive on vituperation. With every battle as shadow Chancellor he grows ever younger, a variation on the Dorian Grey image, and with genetic traces of Norman Tebbitt.
In Business cum politics, this week we have noted, among others, the inevitable demise of the Northern Rockers, pretty much root and branch.
But the real fantasy football this week was played out the FA HQ at Soho Square. I can’t get that image of a bizarre trial scene out of my mind.
Picture the packed court room. The accused stands grim-faced and slightly slumped in the dock. The judge arrives, and then the jury trails in with the verdict.
But wait a minute. This is no ordinary jury. Isn’t that Brian Barwick, and Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards? And surely that’s one or two former England managers with them, standing next to Alan Green, BBC’s current voice of the fans? And the others seem to be journalists. The foreman is Paul Hayward of The Daily Mail.
The verdict of this jury has been unanimous. The defendent is found guilty as charged. Defendant seems unmoved, as if expecting the verdict. But then (this is a bad dream, isn’t it) the foreman stuns the court into silence.
This is a rigged jury
This is no ordinary jury, he cries. It’s a rigged trial. McClaren is a fall guy for the toytown Napoleons at the FA. They even got themselves on to the jury. They are the real culprits. I have already made a deposition that proves it.
“The blazers, who paid Sven Goran Eriksson £25million to reach three quarter-finals and then arrogantly assumed Luiz Felipe Scolari would accept the England job just as he was about to lead Portugal to a World Cup, remain untouchable, unindicted, beyond the reach of the anger that washed over McClaren and his players.
Why call Sir Dave and the chairman of the FA to account when you can blame Scott Carson? Why should anyone at Soho Square resign when you can boot out Terry Venables, who was hired as a human shield to protect McClaren from the press and then marginalised throughout the campaign?
The more urgent need is to consider not 45 minutes but 40 years of failure and here we trudge back to the realisation that the crudeness and physicality of the game in these islands is not conducive to international success.”
Uproar in court. Cries of shame. Resign. To the tower.
I wake up from the nightmare. Check the newspapers. No, it’s not entirely fantasy football. England did lose to Croatia. And as someone said, hinting at the manager’s golden goodbye: Football? It’s a game of two and half million pounds.