Terry Butcher once gave blood on England's behalf. There are few more undiluted patriots than the man whose white shirt was stained red by a seeping head- wound as he played through the pain barrier for his country.
That iconic image, from a game against Sweden in Stockholm 16 years ago, has stuck with Butcher, yet the former England captain does not subscribe to the belief that Sven Goran Eriksson's successor has to have English blood flowing through his veins. Perhaps the fact that Butcher no longer lives in his homeland gives him the courage to be a bold prophet. For the best part of 20 years, he has lived in Scotland.
His role now, as manager of Motherwell - whom he has taken to the Scottish League Cup semi-finals this Wednesday, to face Celtic - allows him not only to champion the underdog, but to understand it, and to be free of the myopia Butcher believes had consumed his compatriots long before they had qualified for the World Cup finals.
As someone who watches England in his role as a BBC Radio Five Live analyst, Butcher's finger is as much on the pulse as it was when he skippered Bobby Robson's side to the semi- finals in 1990. He still wears his heart on his sleeve, but is not blinded by loyalty.
If Butcher had his way, Arsène Wenger would have been given Sven's job long ago. He has been a confirmed critic of the Swede for a long time, but it is not the colour of the man's passport which bothers Butcher, merely the quality of the person. He would like to see Guus Hiddink or Martin O'Neill shortlisted.
Yet, equally, part of him would endorse someone from left field. Stuart Pearce may have scotched suggestions he is ready for the job because of his own relative inexperience at Manchester City, but Butcher feels that his colleague from Italia 90 would be a sound choice.
"It takes a lot to impress the millionaires in the modern football dressing-room but someone like Stuart can get that respect," said Butcher yesterday in an interview in The Herald in Glasgow. "He has been there, done it and has a lot more caps than any of them. He has been to two big semi-finals, scored big penalties, missed big penalties.
"The soul comes from the players, not the manager. We had some unbelievable characters in 1990, and at Euro 96. There does not seem to be a lot now. Football is a bit soulless. I have some sympathy for Eriksson. Everyone is an England manager, from the press to the fans. It's probably one of the hardest jobs in the world. But then part of us would all love to be England manager."
Butcher is not putting his own CV forward, but his friend, Craig Brown, the former Scotland manager, has done that for him. "It was very nice but misguided," responded Butcher. "Maybe he'd been drinking!"
Butcher, though, feels that English football has become drunk with its own inflated sense of worth. He has frequently criticised David Beckham and, after the defeat by Northern Ireland, stated that Eriksson's players had "disgraced the jersey" and wallowed in "self-pity".
"It annoys me when I hear talk about England winning," he said yesterday. "We did not do badly in 1990 and we'll see what happens in Germany. We have some great players, but it is about forming the best team."Reuse content