Football: Partly incompetent, wholly misguided

It's a lousy job but it could be an even worse hobby. Kevin Keegan's much-debated arrangement with the Football Association to coach England in his spare time over the next four months contains so many areas of potential calamity it is difficult to know which to fret about first. But before we evaluate the troubles ahead it is worth studying how English football came to find itself in this strange situation.

This unprecedented period of instability in the history of the FA began with the resignations of the chairman, Keith Wiseman, and the chief executive, Graham Kelly, over the alms for Wales affair a couple of months ago. Then followed swiftly the Glenn Hoddle fiasco which left England without a coach - an urgent problem they have hurriedly tried to navigate through with a shortage of experienced hands at the helm. Thus do they find themselves deposited up a dun-coloured creek.

There is a slim chance that the Keegan deal will work out to the satisfaction of all, but too slim to be comfortable about, and if you detected a sense of panic behind it you would not be alone. Neither is it easy to subdue a feeling that what we have witnessed falls distressingly short of the work of the wise.

The way that senior FA officials scurried up to Keegan's home in the North-east to offer him the job, were rebuffed and took another three days to cobble together a scenario that suited him, was hardly the behaviour of a supreme and confident organisation. They seemed prepared to bend over so far backwards they would have agreed to him doing the job by post.

There is no complaint that they should earmark Keegan as a top candidate but if he was not available full-time - and he had genuine reasons not to be - they should have made other arrangements. They had at hand two former England coaches in Bobby Robson and Terry Venables, who were eager to help with no strings attached. The FA, it was reported, felt that appointing either would be putting the clock back; which is rich coming from a body whose timepieces are permanently behind the times.

Robson, still in good shape at just turned 66, could have taken the job until Keegan had fulfilled his obligations to Fulham and England would have been assured of his full and undivided expert attention.

Venables, being much younger, would have required a more permanent arrangement, but there was everything to gain from allowing him to finish the task he left incomplete at the end of Euro 96. Keegan could still have occupied the background as coach-elect but Venables offered an ideal solution to the present predicament.

Apparently, this was not possible because Venables does not enjoy universal personal affection among the FA's decision-makers. No consideration other than who has the most impressive, most proven, credentials to lead England into the battles looming up should have entered the heads of those who find themselves with the power to decide. Whether they like the way he looks or acts should be irrelevant. As Miss Tina Turner is apt to ask: "What's love got to do with it?"A significant majority of opinion among the public and Press and within the game, including Keegan himself, strongly supports Venables' claims and for that to be ignored because of personal objections is unforgiveable.

This is not the first time that the antipathy denying Venables the opportunity he deserves has reared its amateur head. Brian Clough and Jackie Charlton were two outstanding managers whose claims were rejected by men who did not feel comfortable with them.

We go to great lengths to examine those who would be international managers but we know nothing of the shadowy figures who somehow appear with the authority to select them. Who picks the pickers? We are never likely to win the right to question their worthiness, but we are surely entitled to demand that the needs of the nation should lead their priorities. After all, we expect that of the coach and the players, why should less be expected of the administrators?

As for Keegan, he has been credited with the cuteness of negotiating a risk-free deal. I don't doubt his ability to succeed at it but there is a painful precedent set, ironically, by his old Liverpool partner, John Toshack, who agreed to take control of the Welsh team at the same time that he was managing the Spanish club Real Sociedad.

Toshack said yesterday that he believed Keegan can succeed, but back in 1994 it didn't take Toshack long to realise what he had let himself in for and he beat a retreat within 47 days. What hadn't occurred to him when he agreed to come to his country's rescue was that if he wasn't successful at both enterprises any failure would carry double the burden. So when Wales lost their first match under his command he was regaled by chants of "Go back to Spain," and when Sociedad lost he was invited, even more rudely, to return to Wales.

The distance didn't assist that short experiment but the principle still applies. Both Fulham and England have much riding on the next few months.

Let no one doubt the potency of the temptation. It carries a similar fascination to that faced by the bold young suitors of old - slay the dragon and the hand of the lovely princess will be yours. A tough assignation, fraught with danger but success would bring your heart's desire... on the other hand, no dragon's breath can scorch like that of a football crowd who feel they're being short-changed.

Let's look on the bright side. If Fulham win promotion, England win all all four matches and Keegan keeps his pledge to return to full-time duties with Fulham, what replacement would relish having to match such a level of success with the hero waiting in the wings? Most previous England managers have the advantage of taking over after a period of failure. When times are hard, straits are dire and ebbs are low, a new man has time to settle before the expectations begin to swell.

One exception was Hoddle, who took over a respectably successful team from Venables. Look what happened to him. The harsh truth is that they took England from a seasoned, experienced man and gave it to a rookie - and I mean no offence to Hoddle to term him thus. The lack of wisdom that has declined to send the team on the return journey is to be deplored.

Accusations that modern footballers are molly- coddled would have been strengthened by the news that among the economies being introduced at Portsmouth FC in an attempt to save the club from financial disaster is for the players to start washing their jockstraps from game to game. At the moment, Portsmouth spend pounds 112 on a set of new jockstraps for every match.

Apart from being not what we meant by the call for clubs to be more considerate towards their supporters, this raises a few serious questions such as what they do with the old ones and in what other ridiculous luxuries are they indulging themselves in these poverty-stricken days? As an old parks player, I may be naive in these matters but if ever we could afford one of these contraptions it would have to last an entire career and your hamstrings would go long before the elastic. Even today I know women tennis players who keep the same jock-strap for ages.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power