Football: Chairmen's debt to the national side

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The Independent Online
IT WAS perhaps on the very day that Graham Taylor honourably resigned that everyone got an insight into one of the main reasons why so many managers are not exactly queuing up to replace him.

On to our television screens came a hugely floodlit modern detached house. The cameras then moved from the house to an equally well-lit posse of perhaps 20 to 30 journalists and photographers who were camped out waiting for someone to return to the obviously deserted house. The cameras then followed one reporter who, with a theatrical flourish, knocked on the door. Surprise surprise, no answer. The cameras then focused on the name of the house and the reporter finished by wondering where the ex-England manager could be.

This open invitation to burglars and appalling invasion of privacy is now accepted as being part of the job. As are the personal insults and demeaning photographs in the daily papers.

I could be accused of being a trifle sensitive, but I can assure you that these are the opinions of most managers. You must remember that failure is more of a harsh reality for most football managers than success. Every year one in three managers will lose their jobs. A much smaller number of men will taste the champagne of success, and with the rich clubs getting richer the chances of distributed success are reducing each season.

So it does not matter how optimistic any manager is, he will be well aware of the old football maxim first told to me by Tommy Docherty: 'The one thing you can guarantee as a manager is that sooner or later you are going to get the sack'.

The personal price of England managerial failure has been enormous, not only for Graham Taylor but also for Bobby Robson, Don Revie and, indeed, Sir Alf Ramsey, the only man to win the World Cup.

The risk of failure is all too apparent, because the manager's job is not a position of authority and as such he is not in control of his own destiny. To instigate change, the manager must involve himself in the antiquated, traditional world of football politics which is the Football Association. A losing battle if ever there was one.

The typical decision-making meandering of the FA is such that selecting the next manager has gone from the expectant wait to the great debate. Apparently, a caretaker will manage and cover the cracks while the powers that be talk to everyone about the next structure. This situation could have been anticipated after England's defeat in the Netherlands. Surely it should have been discussed before the San Marino game. Prevarication now confirms a loss of leadership.

I feel the real power base today in English football is the Premier League and its chairmen. As part of my plan to instigate immediate change in our game so that England have a better chance of winning the 1996 European Championship, I would form a three- man Premiership action committee. Three 'enlightened' Premiership chairmen would have the specific task of creating an environment in which the England team would have the best chance of winning in 1996.

I, and many others, talk glibly of reducing the size of the Premiership and moving cup competitions without really understanding the financial consequences. The Premiership chairmen have created a domestic competition which is attracting increasing numbers through the turnstiles in better and better stadiums. Our League is envied and watched throughout the world. Surely these men now owe it to the paying spectator to concentrate their knowledge and power to give the national team a chance, even though it may involve the loss of some short-term income.

The committee would work in conjunction with the national manager, whoever he may be. In this way changes suggested by the manager could be recommended or rejected by the action committee and acted upon by the Premier League. The time-lag from conception to action would be six months rather than six years. The international team has been sacrificed for individual club gain for long enough and in many ways the only thing missing from our football is international success. The chairmen have a responsibility to help find it.

Finally, I send commiserations to Gary Mabbutt on his terrible injury. I wish him a speedy recovery. I also send him congratulations for reacting like a man in a man's game.