I become a man with all the answers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

No offence to my loyal Independent readers nor to my new colleagues on the board of Luton Town (now second from bottom, sadly, of the Second Division) nor to my erstwhile fellow supporters of Blackpool (more sadly, currently fourth from bottom of the Third Division), but it took the dramatic resignation of Kevin Keegan to propel me back into the national consciousness the other week.

No offence to my loyal Independent readers nor to my new colleagues on the board of Luton Town (now second from bottom, sadly, of the Second Division) nor to my erstwhile fellow supporters of Blackpool (more sadly, currently fourth from bottom of the Third Division), but it took the dramatic resignation of Kevin Keegan to propel me back into the national consciousness the other week.

The phone never stopped ringing, it was murder, from that fateful Saturday night till the following Sunday week. As someone who had been intimately involved in the appointment of three England coaches I was suddenly regarded as the man with all the answers on the Football Association's thought processes,assuming such things existed.

The most bizarre episode of all came when one radio presenter told the nation and a somewhat bemused interviewee that, while he was lying in bed one Sunday morning with his wife - another national radio presenter - she had told him he bore a striking resemblance to me. Oh, how I wish I had immediately summoned up the reply that came to me 24 hours later: "Well, it could have been worse, she could have said you resembled David Mellor." Slightly lower that that on the "Doh" scale was the interview with ITN's rolling news channel relayed from outside a stormy, cold and wet Old Trafford. "Well, Mr Kelly," opened the unseen young lady aggressively from the no doubt cosy studio "who are you going to give the England job to now?" I calmly pointed out through chattering teeth to this new YT graduate that it wasn't actually my responsibility any longer, thank goodness.

Still apropos of Manchester I would like to apologise to listeners of TalkSPORT's Breakfast with Brazil for the language of my fellow drivers in the Monday morning city centre rush hour. It wasn't their fault or mine that Alan Brazil rang my car phone just as I was turning into one of those yellow-painted junction boxes when the road ahead was jammed.

I stuck my head above the parapet in pushing Terry Venables for the England job in the full knowledge that I would be putting myself in the firing line of those columnists who consistently attack Venables with unrelenting viciousness. I didn't lose too much sleep over these people setting their sights on me when I was chief executive of the FA because I always thought if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. When I hung up my oven gloves and set out to earn my living by speaking at football functions, I was upset to have my prospects damaged by ill-informed criticism not from someone who had heard me perform, but from one who had no first-hand knowledge whatsoever of my abilities in that field. (As it happens, people usually feel they've had their money's worth). It came as no surprise that such columnists didn't abandon their vilification of Venables when his name came back into prominence.

Sky's Soccer a.m. set up a "phono" as they already had eight people on the couch, and didn't require my presence in the studio. It sounded like the eight were all talking at the same time as I tried to put across cogent answers from the busy lobby of BBC Television Centre where the monitors, unsurprisingly, were not showing Sky output but BBC Choice. I wonder if Greg Dyke counts the viewingfigures from Wood Lane reception, for it's a very busy building most of the time and there are plenty of screens.

The Soccer a.m. people professed themselves affronted at the fact that the FA had declined to appear, which, given the FA's recent declared intention to be open and pro-active surprised me too, but maybe the mandarins felt they'd be perched uncomfortably on the end of the sofa, like late arrivals at a crowded party.

The week of frantic activity ended at Sky on Sunday morning. This intrigued me because, not only did I answer questions at length as a studio guest, but I was also asked to do an Ian Gee piece later. Ian Gee turned out to be E.N.G., simply a recorded interview in a separate room replying to the same questions in the same way once again.

I wonder how many people in the 24 hour news business, or 24-7 to use the term in vogue, fall prey to mental illness by trying to elicit different answers to the same questions over and over again. Still, it was all very amicable and at the end of the day, as I trust I avoided saying all week, they had managed to slip in about half a dozen references to what the News of the World was saying that day, so everyone in their empire will have been happy.

Comments