Comment: Bitter attack by Harry Redknapp shows FA were right to overlook the then Tottenham manager

The question of whether Hodgson was – and is – the right man belongs to another day

Never can the words “The FA are clueless” be the headline to more emphatic proof that the English game’s governing body got it right. They encapsulate the judgement of Harry Redknapp, in his own mind a worthy England manager, who has revealed in the course of a new and  bitter attack on the Football Association how he would have needed to enlist someone else, the then Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers, to help him introduce a passing game, had he been asked to lead the nation at the 2012 European Championship.

Redknapp also discloses that the idea of spending time at St George’s Park, the centre of excellence established to develop that very passing game, does not appeal to him. “I’d rather go in every day and see a bunch of footballers than sit around drinking tea with a bloke in a suit,” Redknapp says, in the first serialised extracts of his autobiography, in which he characterises the governing body as full of institutional snobbery.

Well, the FA certainly feels like a closed shop at times. It revealed that much when Pep Guardiola expressed a willingness to talk about replacing Fabio Capello, which at the very least created the chance of a free consultation with the most exciting manager in Europe. No one returned the call to the Guardiola camp because the FA was set on an Englishman. That seemed to me like a breathtaking lack of curiosity.

But at the outset of the most significant week of Roy Hodgson’s tenure, the spectacle of Redknapp revealing the fury of a manager scorned, with his own supporters piling in behind him to verbally duff up Hodgson yesterday, was an extremely unedifying one. It reduced the discussion of why England are so far from where they ought to be in international football to the kind of pantomime fare for which we can always rely on Redknapp. He’s a manager for the digital media age and just can’t stop himself. Just ask Manchester City, who called in their lawyers a few years ago after he claimed they had tried out a form of commercial blackmail on him and Tottenham in the transfer market. Good headline. Total nonsense.

England deserve better than this. Not only in these next 10 days but in the months ahead, when something needs to be done about why, to select just one example of a dismal institutional failure, the best collection of footballers England could muster under the age of 20 this summer conspired to draw 2-2 with Iraq – a nation with the most basic football facilities, currently in a very uneasy kind of recovery from its own Armageddon.

An intelligent conversation about what is wrong with England is under way, powerfully opened last year by Gary Neville and taken forward very shrewdly on these pages by Patrick Vieira last Saturday. Vieira, Manchester City’s new development squad manager, was walking on egg shells while he talked; reluctant to offend by giving full voice to the notion that the same old people are coaching the same old version of the English game. Confines of space on Saturday prevented us publishing Vieira’s observation that “you need new, fresh faces; new, fresh voices” coaching the game “because the way of coaching and of talking about the game has changed. Our society has changed.” Vieira’s words certainly resonated when Redknapp popped up yesterday morning.

It is at St George’s Park, the place to which Redknapp seems so averse, that some of the “fresh faces” are to be found – because they certainly do exist. Nick Levett, the FA’s national development manager for youth football, is improving the quality of the coaching environment, to ensure young players begin thinking for themselves on the field and making their own decisions. It is a culture of less shouting and more thinking. Not a headline maker – but deeply significant.

There is still a dearth of the “new voices” Vieira talked of, because those who might provide them are desperately undervalued. A former England international related to me at the weekend that he is currently making a 200-mile round trip to coach at a leading Championship club, earning £17.50 an hour to do so. It might take him seven years to complete his coaching qualification, now that the fast-track route enjoyed by retired Spanish players – who can complete all their Uefa badges inside 18 months if they have played a minimum of five internationals or had eight seasons in the top division – has been taken away.

The England manager cannot solve all of these problems. He cannot even solve many of them. But the task ahead requires a  figurehead with qualities of intelligence, modernity, flexibility, perhaps a modicum of diplomacy, as the FA seeks to wrench back the power it has lost to the Premier League. It requires the ability to take the same long-term perspective as the FA’s director of elite development, Dan Ashworth, who admits that England’s prospects of success are even further over the horizon than chairman Greg Dyke has suggested. It  requires more than an occasional journey from a mansion at Sandbanks to Burton-upon-Trent.

The question of whether Hodgson was – and is – the right man belongs to another day. As Redknapp says, Hodgson’s face possibly did “fit” more with chairman David Bernstein, who appointed him. That much was clear on the night Hodgson casually dropped a novella – Chess, Austrian writer and journalist Stefan Zweig’s examination of Nazism – into Bernstein’s hands at a pre-Euros barbecue. Their inherent conservatism means both lack the personality for this media age exuded by Redknapp, born into the 1940s just like them.

Yet it was when reading the serialised sections of Redknapp’s autobiography that lay one double-page spread back from his annihilation of its organisation yesterday, that the FA must have given thanks for good, old-fashioned, buttoned-up Hodgson. It was the story of how Redknapp had been conned by a “jockey” called Lee Topliss who after three years and a scam which earned him thousands, turned out to be a potman from a pub in Newmarket. Clueless? Just imagine the fall-out from a story like that.  

Simplicity ruled in Anfield’s Boot Room

I’ll talk more at a later date on these pages about an excellent new book on Liverpool FC in the 1980s – Simon Hughes’ The Red Machine (Mainstream, £15.99). But the memory it provides of the incredible simplicity of Bob Paisley’s ethos as his players bestrode the continent makes you wonder whether everyone is trying too hard these days, with their performance analysis and tactical rigour. When Michael Robinson arrived at the club in 1983, he asked Paisley and his assistant Joe Fagan how they wanted him to play. Hughes relates how the two men looked at each other before Fagan took charge of the conversation. “Listen lad, we play 11 players here – just to make sure we aren’t disadvantaged,” he replied. “In midfield, when we get the ball we try to kick it to someone in the same colour as us. As a forward, Michael, kick it in the net, and if you can’t, kick it to somebody who can.” Eat your heart out, ProZone.

After all the shouting, Donetsk is just the same

Four days in Donetsk last week was more than enough to wonder whether staging that European Championship was worth an iota of the expense and effort. The Donbass Arena, where England opened their tournament against the France last year, is glaringly resplendent against the grey, impoverished backdrop of a coal city in which the Sergey Prokofiev Airport – vast, gleaming and totally empty - is the only other sign that the football carnival once passed that way. “The Euros helped the politicians and some business people,” said a local university teacher. “But for the rest they have just what they had before. Nothing.”

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home