James Lawton: Barwick is right to seek advice but must be careful not to ask too many questions

Hoddle's big regret was that he didn't take Eileen Drewery to the World Cup
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Let no one mutter a word of criticism of the Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick for seeking professional help in the pursuit of England's new head coach. The last time he followed his own instincts he had more misadventures than Alice and then, perhaps having been inspired by the Mad Hatter, signed up Steve McClaren.

However, Brian, it would be a dereliction of national duty not to mention that one or two of your long list of new advisers have not always displayed the last word in compelling logic. Maybe you were deeply immersed in some intricate television negotiations when Glenn Hoddle's own reign went up like an oil refinery hit by a stray canister of napalm. After going out of the 1998 World Cup in France in the round of 16 he reported that he could scarcely move around the land for the backslapping that followed England's performance.

Despite having restricted the wunderkind Michael Owen, who he suggested was maybe not a natural goalscorer, to one pre-tournament outing with his eventual strike partner Alan Shearer, and leaving him on the bench for most of the defeat by Romania in the group game, Hoddle said that he returned to England with only one serious regret. It was that he lost his nerve and had not included his faith-healing friend Eileen Drewery as a key member of the squad.

To be fair to Hoddle, England had qualified for the tournament with a tactically sound performance against Italy in Rome, redeeming the home defeat at Wembley which came after the dumbfounded Italians had discovered that Matt Le Tissier was England's shock selection. However, any debate in the jury room was cut rather short by Hoddle's decision to write a fly-on-the-wall account of England's experiences in France including Paul Gascoigne's rampage when he was told that his habits had disqualified him from a place in the final squad and then announce in a radio interview that handicapped people were simply being revisited by their sins from a previous life.

None of this is to say that Hoddle does not have some fine qualities as a football man and some of the same could be said for other unlikely members of the advisory panel, including John Terry and Steven Gerrard, whose views might be somewhat less than objective, and Graham Taylor, the last England coach before McClaren to fail to qualify for a major tournament.

Taylor, against the best advice of his canny old assistant Lawrie McMenemy, had the whole debacle recorded by a television documentary team, who were perfectly placed to record Taylor's rant that it was all the fault of a referee and had nothing to do with his vision of Carlton Palmer as England's player of the future. All we are saying here is that there are times when you can get too much advice and from too many diverse perspectives.

Sir Bobby Robson will always be honoured for his passion, and the fact that in 1990 in Italy he helped, though perhaps not without the odd bout of good fortune and hints of player power, produce the chemistry that took England to a semi-final penalty shoot-out with eventual winners Germany, but he had one or two bizarre moments, including marching disdainfully from a press conference and straight into a broom cupboard and announced that Terry Butcher, playing in Stockholm with a bloodily bandaged head after receiving a nick, had displayed so much courage Victoria Crosses had been awarded for less.

Arsne Wenger is advising England to appoint an Englishman presumably one of those he has been running rings around for the last decade or so. Sir Alex Ferguson, as mischievous as ever, is offering a shortlist of one Jose Mourinho. But Mourinho apparently the rock-hard favourite of the editor of The Sun is demanding a copper-bottomed offer that he might accept or reject, possibly depending on the position of the moon at the particular time of the month or how much mileage he can glean from such austere arbiters of the public mood as The Sun.

Franz Beckenbauer says Jrgen Klinsmann and Michel Platini, echoing Wenger in what is plainly a French conspiracy, urges the appointment of an Englishman. Sir Bobby Charlton, who has the credentials of playing under both Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Matt Busby, believes that Martin O'Neill has the right stuff, a similar verdict to the one he made on Ferguson when his fellow Old Trafford directors were wavering over his appointment in 1986. Charlton's verdict is supported by the other Sir Bobby.

It is one supported here, with Guus Hiddink also a desirable target, but surely there is one overwhelming need in this desperately overheated situation. It is not for the stimulation of some endless popularity parade or the dubious force of public opinion. It is for the leaders of the Football Association to identify and respect proper counsel, draw up their own list of contenders, and tick them off if it becomes overwhelmingly clear they are not available.

Thousands of well run companies do this as a matter of course. The idea that Barwick is hunting down the verdicts of anyone with a name in football here or on the Continent is little short of risible.

Where does it end? Pretty much in guesswork. Some compelling candidates have suggested they might be available, most notably the vastly experienced and successful Fabio Capello, and if Mourinho is truly in the market, and can be pinned down for his serious interest and not some diverting headlines until Real Madrid or Milan or whoever get round to offering him a mega contract, obviously he has to be considered.

But this process should be ongoing, not some reaction to one of the most predictable denouements in the history of English football. If the chief executive of some great multinational falls by the wayside, decides that he wants to spend his time in a Tibetan monastery or some fleshpot in Soho rather than the corporate corridors, can we not be sure that a list of potential and available replacements is already churning out of the printer?

The way it is now with McClaren's replacement we are seeing not cool action under pressure but another deluge of procrastination.

Getting advice is fine, but there is a limit. When you pass it you might just be in danger of saying you don't really have a clue about what you're doing.

Transparent transfers would stop Old Bill disturbing Redknapp household and destroy agents' opaque domain

Harry Redknapp was understandably distressed by the inconvenience caused to his wife by the Old Bill when they came calling, with photographers of his least favourite newspaper in tow. However, and not withstanding his presumed innocence in the matter of a million pounds going missing in a transfer deal, Redknapp (right) should consider, along with the rest of football, how such reputation-damaging events can best be avoided.

It is by instituting a properly transparent transfer system, one where the suspicions that are now so rife can be wiped away by one quick reference to the details lodged at some central clearing house details impeccably registered and ticked away by accountants and lawyers.

When the "bung" inquiry launched by Lord Stevens was widely dismissed as another futile scraping of the surface, by someone who is being paid by the Premiership, some of us offered a small caution.

It was that while some leading Premiership chairman were screaming for a quick end to the inquiry, for Stevens to put up and then go away, others believed that a certain amount of genuine pressure, for the first time, was being applied to those who for so long seemed to be operating in their own world and their own vast profits. Agents who did not cooperate were being named, along with transfer deals that couldn't be held up to the light.

The City of London police are now running with the ball that the old cop Stevens put in play. And they are doing it with the full force of the law of the land. Some innocent football people may legitimately claim to be harassed, and this is unfortunate, but then it is also true that if anyone is guilty out there they are feeling more heat, and thus are more likely to crack, than ever before. This, however distressing for the Redknapp family, is surely a bonus.

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