Ethelred ready to save England's day

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St George's Day came and went last week and the backlog of unslain dragons continues to grow. This applies particularly in sport where he has long neglected his work and the thought is irresistible that if only England hounded their patron saint like they do their managers they might get some results of a more encouraging nature.

It may well be, however, that the reason St George offers so little inspiration to those he represents is that he is miffed at the fact that he wouldn't be allowed to play for England in any sport. The legendary hero was born in the Middle East and hasn't even got residency qualifications. His heart is obviously not in the job, his record stinks and he should be sacked forthwith.

His replacement should be irrefutably English, have a proven antagonism towards foreigners and possess an approach to life his countrymen can identify with immediately.

I have no hesitation in recommending Ethelred the Unready who reigned over England 1,000 years ago. Among his many credentials that our top sportsmen would applaud is that Ethelred was the king who introduced Danegeld, thus becoming the earliest English proponent of the bung.

His pioneering work for the world of sport continued when, in the year 1002, he not only won a decisive battle against the Danes but rounded it off by slaughtering the lot of them, thereby laying the foundation for the sudden-death play-off. To have Ethelred at the helm when Denmark come here in June as European champions would be a tremendous boost to the English team's morale.

But football would not be the only sport able to strike up a quality of rapport with their new patron saint they've never had with St George. For a start, Ethelred couldn't abide the Celts and this would give him an immediate bond with the Rugby Football Union. Indeed, the thought of the RFU shafting the Scots, Welsh and Irish by grabbing most of the television fees for the Five Nations would have the old king wetting his sackcloth leggings in glee.

The slogan "Might is Right" would appeal to the medieval mind. Even someone who couldn't comprehend the concept of television would agree that the more people you have watching in your country, the bigger the share you deserve of the proceeds of any international. The case for England having the biggest slice is, thus, unanswerable.

It is to be hoped that the Football Association remembered this when England played Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday. By the same logic they should have reduced the Croats' share of the television fees on the grounds that many of their population are still digging their sets out of the rubble.

Scotland, Wales and Ireland will just have to accept the fact that it is only the size of the English audience that makes their games against them such money-spinners. They should try to look on the bright side. Supposing during a Calcutta Cup match all the English electricity companies suffer a power cut and only television sets in Scotland can receive the game. The Scots will then get the entire fee for that match. That proves how fair the system is.

The only other problem I can see for England is if the Chinese ever take up rugby in a big way. China v England would not yield a very big TV cheque for the RFU. Perhaps the subject deserves more thought. The fact that England have far more clubs, players and spectators than the others already gives them enough of an advantage. More affiliation fees, a bigger stadium, bigger crowds and, theoretically, a better chance of winning the prizes.

Their rivals have need of the television income to maintain the playing standards that will ensure the Five Nations retains the highly competitive edge that makes it such a saleable commodity. A more urgent priority for the RFU is the composition of next season at club level. We know how difficult it is to put professional heads on old farts' bodies but all Europe is waiting for them to stop dithering and help organise a meaningful and attractive competition that will assist clubs to make the most of their new opportunities. There is little time left.

While on the subject of not being prepared, how is English cricket shaping up for the summer series against India and Pakistan? They appear to have had enough trouble selecting a selection panel let alone a team. We trust that now the county cricketers are back in action the turmoil will be replaced by some calm preparations.

As for the English football team, how many more unsatisfactory Wednesday evenings can their fans tolerate? It wouldn't take a massive amount of marketing nous to change the whole attitude to these matches. All that is necessary is to reclassify them as experimental, which is precisely what they are, andcharge a nominal fee for entry.

This would have the triple benefit of enlarging the crowd, improving the atmosphere and taking the edge off the expectations. All the Croatia game appeared to do was to split the nation in its opinion as to how Terry Venables is faring in his team-building. English sport must be far more patient. As it is, their footballers, rugby players and cricketers could only greet their new patron saint with the words: "Unready when you are, King Ethelred."

Manchester United are wandering further afield in their ceaseless quest for new commercial spin-offs. Their latest venture is their own brand of whisky. Manchester United Premium Blend will soon be available at the reasonable price of pounds 10.99 a bottle.

If they win the championship and the FA Cup next month, no doubt they will mark the occasion by bringing out a double malt. This broadening of their range will seem a natural progression to those already drinking tea out of United mugs and snuggling under the club duvet cover at night.

But, perhaps, they have hit on the ultimate salvation of our much- criticised way of playing football. In a few years time I can imagine supporters settling down to watch them on pay-per-view; wearing their official United shirt, with the replacement strip on hand in case they change at half-time; sipping a large glass of 12-year-old Trafford; and reflecting how much better the game looks when you really get into the team spirit.

It is never difficult to whip up feeling against the Germans and there was a predictable outburst of indignation when it was discovered that the ball with which Geoff Hurst scored his hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final was pilfered after the match by Helmut Haller, West Germany's inside-left. Either our list of unsolved crimes is worse than we thought or this was a brilliant publicity stunt designed to whip up jingoism in readiness for the forthcoming European Championship when the Germans will be back ready to nick anything, especially the trophy.

Unfortunately, a typically inane scuffle between the tabloids resulted in Haller being portrayed as a villain. Even a Times leader chuntered on about England's rights in the matter. I will ask only one question. If it is the honourable thing to allow a country to retain the central symbols of its historic games then why won't we give the Greeks back the Elgin marbles?

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