Funny game, football. Or, as Sir Alex Ferguson so memorably put it: "Football, bloody hell."
There's nothing quite like it to bring out the best and worst in us. Trevor Brooking, one of the most commanding figures to distinguish England's midfield in the last 30 years, is appointed by the Football Association to assist in taking the game forward, and because his coaching and managerial expertise is not reflected by possession of the latest Uefa qualifications, there is deep resentment expressed by Sam Allardyce on behalf of the League Managers' Association.
Allardyce was scathing: he suggested that a referees' officer who had never refereed a game could be next to fall under Brooking's remit as director of football development at the FA. It was Howard Wilkinson, also the chairman of the LMA, who, as FA technical director, drew up the lengthy programme of instruction for the Uefa qualifications.
Raised eyebrows at Brooking's appointment were probably inevitable, given the surprising timing during one of the FA's sporadic outbreaks of moral concern and the imprecise nature of his title. Moreover, Les Reed has been the acting technical director ever since Wilkinson left to manage Sunderland.
Following Allardyce's attack, the FA gamely attempted to clarify Brooking's role. It involves working with the England team, the professional game, and also requires him to devote as much time as possible to the grass roots. Brooking himself maintained he had no issue with the LMA for raising its concerns. No doubt trying to avoid any reference to hymn sheets and thus causing offence to his chairman, Geoff Thompson, he added: "It is important for everyone in football to be singing from the same platform."
Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive - someone who has not always sung the same tune as the FA on coaching issues - said: "You won't find one player who would question the involvement of people like Trevor in the FA."
If you believe in the game as a force for good, you have to hope that someone like Brooking at the heart of it can only make significant improvements to its health and well-being. The sooner he meets the LMA, if that is the managers' wish, and resolves their worries, the better. Perhaps he might also remind them of the manager's code of conduct, which was drawn up when the Premier League started.
There is a whole range of activities which have come to light over recent years that ought to be specifically prohibited in the code if they are not already, such as managers holding shares in players' agencies, a clear example of potential conflict of interest and corruption.
The clause in the code which obliges the managers not to denigrate referees seems to have been somewhat forgotten this season, and it could usefully be replaced by a new undertaking whereby managers, in return for the new common-sense tolerance which appears to have been granted by the referees, will encourage their players to accept decisions at all times and get on with the game in the proper spirit.
Since the referees' chief, Philip Don, was shifted from office (a move which Allardyce advocated), an element of consistency has disappeared. Uriah Rennie merely showed Everton's Wayne Rooney a yellow card for pushing Portsmouth's Steve Stone in the chest, whereas Jeff Winter contented himself with a lecture for Darius Vassell, of Aston Villa, for the same offence against Portsmouth's Matthew Taylor.
The experiment of advancing the ball 10 yards in cases of dissent, encroachment and timewasting as an adjunct to the yellow card has fallen into disuse by the top referees and will be abandoned when the international board meets in London next month. It is even more imperative, therefore, that a renewed initiative is taken with regard to acceptance of the referee's decision, so long football's Achilles' heel.
Sir Bobby Robson, whose own Newcastle United have been setting a fine example of late, reflected sorrowfully, at the time of the England rugby union triumph, that the Corinthian spirit had gone out of football.
This seemed to me a particularly English concept, similar to the phrase "it's not cricket" and deriving from the same era, but no, when I asked Sir Bobby about it subsequently, he likened the spirit to the Ipswich Town regime of the Cobbolds.
He would apologise to John Cobbold after a defeat and the chairman's usual reply, after tendering a glass of white wine, was: "Don't worry. If we had not lost, our opponents would not have had the pleasure of beating us today. Next week it will probably be our turn."
That attitude combined to drive one famous Geordie, Jackie Milburn, to drink at Portman Road and is probably hopelessly outdated, but it would be good to think Trevor Brooking had some aspirations to restore at least some of the values that he espoused in his playing career.Reuse content