Badminton: Hope coupled to Goode's train: James Leigh on Britain's new badminton manager who is allying foresight with forcefulness for the Atlanta Games

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The Independent Online
A MANAGER must have some special quality when 20 leading players petition for his appointment. That is confirmed by the fact that the British Olympic committee discounted any accusations of succumbing to player power and quickly appointed Andy Goode their badminton manager at the end of November last year. This was despite Goode never having held a managerial post before.

Some of his potential effectiveness was seen in the Thomas Cup finals last May. England, whose badminton stock was at its lowest ebb in a 100-year history, suffered such a humiliating defeat to Malaysia in the intimidating, humid Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur that local newspapers were cruelly headlining them as 'whipping boys' and 'no-hopers'.

The mood was a mixture of depression and resentment. But Goode, a muscular 32-year-old with flint concealed behind an amiable persona, grasped the role of unofficial England captain.

He produced so much straight- talking, morale-boosting and air-clearing that the next day the men went out and beat the European champions, Denmark, for the first time in the Thomas Cup in more than 40 years of trying.

'It was a case of getting the blood boiling, and being given a bit of confidence,' says Nick Ponting, whose win with Dave Wright over the All-England finalists, Jan Paulsen and Henrik Svarrer, was the biggest surprise of all.

Goode, who has been on the world circuit for 13 years, also tipped off Ponting that by serving to Paulson's forehand he would likely get a return back on the forehand, earning at least six points by enabling Ponting to anticipate correctly. Most of all Goode managed to make the most basic psychology work: helping the players to believe in themselves.

Britain (the majority of whose players will be English) will need that more than anything in Atlanta. Goode will be attempting, on the evidence of Barcelona, nothing less than reversing the course of history.

Barcelona illustrated that the momentum is with Indonesia and Malaysia, who are both supporting and rewarding their successful players.

The brothers, Jalani and Razif Sidek, earned Malaysia its first Olympic medal of any kind with a shared bronze in the doubles. The first-round women's doubles match featuring Rosiana Tendean and Erma Sulistianingsih, the Indonesians who lost to Britain's Julie Bradbury and Gill Clark, attracted Indonesia's highest television-viewing figures for any sport.

Goode is one of the few whose presence alone suggests Britain might sneak a medal in Atlanta against all the odds. To take the manager's job he has agreed this season to end a playing career in which he won 129 England caps, 10 national titles and five grand prix tournaments; he has volunteered to pass most of the running of his sports wholesalers business to his brother, Nick; and he has said he will perform a full-time job with a part-time salary.

'He had several years when he felt most of the selectors were against him, so he knows how players can react when they feel badly treated,' his predecessor, Steve Baddeley, said. Goode said: 'We do knock ourselves so much. We sometimes like to see people fail. We mustn't do that.' He predicts that in two years we will have the best men's doubles pairs in Europe.

Baddeley also believes Goode will use his business experience and professionalism to make the players much better organised. ('Some of them don't know what they are doing in one month, let alone six months,' Baddeley claims.) This, and the vexed question of practice attendances, will be a vital area.

Arguments about this were a factor in the decision of Lee Jae- bok to relinquish his position as British Olympic coach and pursue a degree at Loughborough instead. Goode will use the outstanding Korean part-time, and insist on fuller commitments from the players.

'People not turning up won't got funded,' he says. You know, from what he himself has sacrificed, that he means it.

(Photograph omitted)