Friday's appointment of Robson as a part-time aide to Venables, along with Don Howe, is not an inspired move. Anyone outside the Football Association would long ago have had the courage to take him into the inner sanctum of the international set-up. Not the FA. They put it off until they worked out how much failing to qualify for this summer's World Cup was going to cost them. Then, all of a sudden, Venables, who not long before had been considered so flash and dodgy that he was only ever invited to Lancaster Gate to represent players at disciplinary hearings, was acceptable. Now the idea of creating a dynasty, which Ron Greenwood recommended to many of the same committee pensioners many years ago, is similarly worthy of acceptance.
Sooner or later Robson will become the England manager. Inevitably, even the exceptionally gifted coaching of Venables will finally succumb to the fact that while English league football is the envy of the world it is also the laughing-stock because its players are required to career full-tilt towards destruction twice a week.
But at least Robson is being given a chance to succeed, one he patently deserves after being prematurely discarded as a player by Taylor. Contrary to the conventional view, selecting a youngish, outstanding ex-
international of high stature to work alongside the manager is not an idea thought up by the Germans or the French. Had Greenwood had his way, footballers of real quality, not least Bobby Moore and later Kevin Keegan and Glenn Hoddle, would have been involved with England's coaching years ago.
Of course, not many England managers have wanted to believe their life-span at Lancaster Gate was likely to be less than five years. Venables may have had some pie-in-the-sky ideas about owning and running a football club, but he is pragmatic enough to accept the limits on his own shelf-life.
So what will Robson offer to England, apart from inspiring memories of Captain Marvel and that fistful of medals with which he can inspire international players who have a reputation of only playing for one dollar more? He starts with the advantage of having managed England before. Not officially, of course, but on all of those occasions when the manager had given it his best shout but the captain was only a whisper away from the real action. Like Gary Lineker in Taylor's era, Robson often ran the show. After Manchester United won the Cup-Winners' Cup three years ago, Montpellier's Wim Suvrijn made the penetrating remark: 'Maybe he's not a great player any more, but he's a great coach. He tells the others where to play.'
Robson's criticism of Taylor was that he too often left players to their own devices and never had a system on which to fall back. In that respect, he and Venables will see eye to eye, but Robson is likely to be always watching for ball-winners while Venables looks first for play- makers.
Already Robson is talking of stopping football's emerging nations taking advantage of their superior technique by 'working hard to close them down'. Closing down? Is that the way it will be? Remember that apart from gutless managers, it was Robson who often used to keep Hoddle out of the England team. At least Robson has said he wants to see young players taking more care over their ball control and stop hoofing it aimlessly upfield.
Can Robson be an inspiring England manager of the future? Bobby Robson has no doubts that inspiration comes easily to his former captain, but points out that on the field it was rarely what he said that counted but the quality of his leadership by example. Within a short time a new generation of players will have grown up without seeing him play.
Bobby Robson thinks his 'bravery and determination' will still come out as a coach. He remembers him as being 'faultless, at least on the field', and that during the 1990 World Cup in Italy it was Bryan Robson, Howe and some of the senior players who eventually persuaded him to use the sweeper system that took England so close to the final. If any combination can drive a future England to that last hurdle it must surely be that of the innovator Venables, the old sages Howe and Dave Sexton, who will take care of the Under-21s, and the most powerful player of the Eighties - Bryan Robson.
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