Grip's groundwork to smooth takeover

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In distant times, the England team, like most club sides, had a manager and a figure usually known as a trainer, whose duties oscillated between helping with coaching sessions (such as there were) and running on to tend injured players with a cure-all sponge and bucket of cold water. Just as the number of coaches at leading clubs has subsequently increased to the point where Chelsea, earlier this season, seemed to have more track-suited chiefs than Indians, so Team England has spawned a whole shoal of personnel, full-time and part-time, temporary and permanent.

In distant times, the England team, like most club sides, had a manager and a figure usually known as a trainer, whose duties oscillated between helping with coaching sessions (such as there were) and running on to tend injured players with a cure-all sponge and bucket of cold water. Just as the number of coaches at leading clubs has subsequently increased to the point where Chelsea, earlier this season, seemed to have more track-suited chiefs than Indians, so Team England has spawned a whole shoal of personnel, full-time and part-time, temporary and permanent.

From the chaos of Kevin Keegan's sudden departure on that Saturday evening at Wembley last October, a new hierarchy has been put in place, with less continuity - as usual - than was desirable, but with the aim this time of planning for something more than the short-term.

Before the Football Association had secured the signature of Sven Goran Eriksson, it installed two of the country's brighter young coaches in Peter Taylor and Steve McClaren to work with the senior team on a temporary basis and added Brian Kidd to take over the Under-21s. That was an important part of the three-point plan for the succession, namely "to develop a team of the best young coaches in England to support the new head coach and... build continuity for the future".

Meanwhile, Howard Wilkinson, the technical director, was downgraded from working directly with either team, and Keegan's chosen ones from his Newcastle days, Arthur Cox, Peter Beardsley and Derek Fazackerly, quietly disappeared.

Once Eriksson agreed a five-year contract, there was a bonus in that the assistant he wished to bring with him from Lazio, Tord Grip, was released immediately, since when he has, according to the FA's chief executive, Adam Crozier, "been watching more games than anyone I've ever met".

Acting as Eriksson's eyes and ears, the 61 year-old Grip has taken in youth and Academy matches as well as first-team games, building up his own database of players. His strength is in scouting players and opponents and his input over the next few weeks, as his boss prepares to name a squad for the friendly against Spain at Villa Park on 28 February, will clearly be substantial.

Grip said yesterday that Lazio's loss is England's gain.

"There isn't a manager who hasn't experienced what 'Svennis' is now going through," Grip said. "In some ways it would have been nice for him to stay in Italy and have everything go well at Lazio. But it's great that he's now coming over here and we can work together. I've been a little lonely lately."

Taylor and McClaren, despite having had only one match to date, have not merely lived up to expectations, but further enhanced their reputations to a point at which each can reasonably expect to continue working under Eriksson for some time. Taylor came with an already established England pedigree as successful coach to the Under-21 team, and the additional benefit of a widespread feeling that he was hard done by in being forced to relinquish that position when Wilkinson expanded his own portfolio. Making such a success of his first season in the Premiership, with a limited Leicester City squad, has earned the former Southend and Gillingham manager further plaudits, and his selection and handling of the team in an unlucky defeat by Italy were equally well received.

McClaren, with a less glamorous playing career behind him and no international caps to put on the table, had the advantage of being well respected by the England contingent at Manchester United, who were doubtless quick to sing his praises to the rest of the squad.

Charlton's Alan Curbishley, concentrating for the moment on his club, may yet become a member of Team England and Ray Clemence, as goalkeeping coach, offers what little continuity there has been since Glenn Hoddle was appointed five long years ago.

Comments