Peter Moores is finding, like most of those before, that returning to an old job is unlikely to have a happy ending

England's woeful run of results have shone little signs of an upturn

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Remember Life Begins? You have no reason to, unless your hobbies involve the obsessive documentation of mid-2000s beige-tinted ITV dramas.

If you do retain a depressing familiarity with the third or fourth or fifth page of the Freeview planner and have a shared interest in the current fortunes of the England Test side, the fortunes of Maggie and Phil might just have struck the faintest cord.

Phil (Alexander Armstrong), doe-eyed and fallible in the manner of a recalcitrant puppy, leaves Maggie (Caroline Quentin), stolid, reliable, solid ad comforting nauseam, in search of greener, more exciting meadows.

Realising his mistake, Phil returns – and, this being prime-time homely feel-good television, things return to normal, with the odd dully ironic twist.

Peter Moores’ renewal of his England vows, however, shows no sign of such a sepia-tinted ending.

His side’s latest collapse will load pressure firstly onto the slumping shoulders of Alastair Cook, secondly onto the misfiring bats and gloves of Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

But perhaps the fault lines through this England team run deeper than their obvious deficiencies at the top and in the middle of the batting order; deeper even than their chronic lack of a frontline spinner.

In sport, unlike in TV drama, renewing conjugal relations with a team usually ends in a doubling of failure, humiliation and recrimination.

Consider Matt Busby. Having forged a cast-iron reputation as a Manchester United icon through fifteen years of service, Busby returned to the club in 1970, just a year after leaving. He steered United to eighth, but could do nothing to prevent their relegation just three seasons later.

Compared with Busby, Moores’ first spell atop English cricket’s marital castle was hardly a bath in rosewater. After the honeymoon of a series win against the West Indies aided in large part by a Kevin Pietersen double-century and ten wickets from Monty Panesar there followed the mid-life disappointment of a series defeat against South Africa, which precipitated the resignation of Michael Vaughan and the ill-fated appointment of Pietersen.

That trial separation was quickly followed by one of more permanence. After an attempt at an Indian reconciliation ended in a 1-0 defeat, Moores and Pietersen both left their jobs.

To return to a sporting relationship after failure should be lauded: it requires bravery and no little passion for the job to confront the scene of one’s former mistakes.

But failure is a difficult stain to eradicate, particularly since it comes attached to its own complicated partner, memory.

Key figures like Broad, Anderson and Prior experienced the worst days of the first Moores regime. Now that an even more severe rot of losses appears to have set in, it would take an increasingly naïve optimist to expect an outcome happier than the first divorce.

Sportsmen are not robots whose memories can be wiped clean upon command. They may be more robust mentally than the man with his hamper sitting in the Tavern Stand – but they are still prone to the same concerns and niggles provoked by the faults of the past.

Kevin Keegan returned to Newcastle United and sullied a once-brilliant legacy. Kenny Dalglish tarnished his trophy haul at Liverpool with an increasingly rancorous 18 months in charge.

Moores, unfortunately, has no such comforting holiday photo albums to fall back on. Giving things another go was not the comfortable option. It was the opposite, in fact – a journey back into what always looked like thorny territory.

But if England carry on losing, sentiment alone will not be enough to save the relationship between England and her luckless, reconciled ex.