Sunday, March 25, 2007

today : Vietnam, Iraq, Israel

How do you proceed when you have made a decision that is so obviously imbecilically wrong, yet pride, stubborness, self-delusion and stupidity make you follow it for long enough that it cannot be easily undone, and you are currently mired in an increasingly bad situation?

This is the burning question of our times. Powerful people made foolish and ideologically driven mistakes, following advisors who had too much to lose to not behave other than as fawning yes-men. A campaign was started based on narrow, blinkered criteria. It was poorly planned and shambolically managed: and now we are all paying the price.

Yet this has always been the way. Lack of vision has stymied any real progress internationally. The powerful people fall back and make useless choices, retrenched in their need to retain power and caught up in their own little worlds.

Which is why the FA refused to employ Brian Clough when he was clearly the best choice to manage the England team. It's why they settled for Ron Greenwood, Graham Taylor and now Steve McClaren. Each time they reached a position where it was too late to turn back, yet what lay in front of them was only more disaster.

But where do we go from here? Apparently the FA are still paying Sven thousands a week to not be the manager, as well as paying McClaren to be the manager. If they sack him all the other decent choices are contracted to jobs it would be difficult to prize them from.

The mistakes piled up prior to the new regime being appointed. Firstly, Sven (as was his right) was recorded having a conversation during which he showed interest in a job other than managing England. As a knee jerk response, the FA lengthened and hiked up his contract, knowing a World Cup was six months away. Secondly, after Sven decided he was leaving the FA offered his job to Phil Scolari, on the condition that he accept before the world cup. Like almost anyone in the world Scolari said no, as he didn't want to go into the tournament as a lame duck coach. Then Martin O Neill, who was a free agent came into the frame. The most respected manager of his generation, the FA dithered on O' Neill because he is Northern Irish. Sensing that he might be taken off the club scene, while the FA dithered, several clubs came in to offer O' Neill a job. Aston Villa won the race and then he was off the scene. Next in the frame was Sam Allardyce. Unproven but a passionate guy whose work at Bolton showed intelligence and a great depth of tactical nouse, it turns out that maybe the FA shied away from him because (although this wasn't public at the time) his name had cropped up in the bungs enquiry. Then came Alan Curbishley. He anounced he was leaving his club, Charlton, at the end of the season. I wonder if he did this to get the England job and not mess Charlton around. He too was overlooked. One by one the FA, either by prevaricating or being outright stupid, narrowed their feild of candididates.

Which left us with McClaren. No more proven than Allardyce, clearly about a tenth as clever as O Neill and the totally boring safe choice. One thing the FA knew: apart from screwing around on his wife, McClaren was already part of their little club and had no skeletons in his closet. The least worst option left. Only, in actuality, not. Because if you go for the safe option, and it doesn't work, you cannot fall back on the claim that you took a risk.

McCaren must have taken advice when he made the idiotic decision to end Beckham's international career. Okay, drop him on form, but to do it in such a way that you'd look like a fool if you recalled him is just moronic. What if you needed him? At the time it was applauded by some as a brave decision. But at the time people thought the Charge of The Light Brigade was a brave decision.

In this evening's match away to Israel, McClaren, apparently short of defenders, picked Phil Neville at right back. Because, clearly Phil Neville is more worthy of a place than Beckham. He took him off after an goal-less hour and replaced him with another right back. He played Jamie Carragher (central defender or right back) at left back. Aaron Lennon (right winger or advanced central midfielder) on the left wing. Then, with not long to go and the match at 0-0, he substituted him with Stewart Downing (a left winger) whilst playing apparently nobody on the right wing. He replaced Andy Johnson, speedy but diminutive forward, with Jermaine Defoe, speedy but diminutive forward. etc etc etc

Great coaches are brave, visionary and inspired. They don't play safe. They don't take the consensus, let's-not offend the establishment option. That's why the FA never seems to ermploy them.

Eventually McClaren will have to be sacked. The press'll get on his back and if there are no scandals, they will invent them. How did the powers that be not foresee this, when pretty much 100% of paying football fans could?

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