James Lawton: FA wasting experience of Charlton and Robson

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The Independent Football

As Brian Barwick, the Football Association's chief executive, ploughs on in the bizarre beauty parade designed - if you'll forgive the fancy expression - to land the next England head coach, one question above all begs to be asked.

It goes directly to him and is this: when you were a top man in TV and a key appointment had to be made, one vital to the course of the national television industry for the next few years, how would you have reacted to some gnarled old football man coming into your office, putting his feet on the desk, and saying, "OK, sit back, I'll sort this out."

Barwick would, of course, have been right to ask his own question: "What on earth in your background qualifies you have to any influence at all in such an important matter?"

The trouble with football is that it is so accessible, so superficially simple, that everyone thinks they know it; not just the fascinating, entertaining face of it at its best, but its very nuances. The guy who delivers the milk can give you 10 minutes solid on the weaknesses of Rafa Benitez or Arsène Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson. The bank manager can also be capable of delivering much grief, too, but try to tell him where you think a wise and knowing man would set your overdraft, and he'll reel off all the reasons why you have got it utterly wrong. Because he knows - it is his business.

The veteran football man Gerry Summers once summed it all up rather well, saying: "There are two jobs everyone in the country thinks they can do: Prime Minister or football manager."

The FA's final adjudicating panel will be Barwick, Dave Richards, a catastrophe as chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, and Noel White, who despite his superior record as a director at Liverpool was still responsible for driving away Terry Venables, potentially the best England coach since Sir Alf Ramsey.

It is not exactly a unit of sure-fire Solomonesque football judgement. We are told that Trevor Brooking has some "input", although rather disappointingly it seems to have been centred on advocacy of the case for his former West Ham team-mate Alan Curbishley, a fine football man but maybe some way from being the best qualified candidate.

What is utterly amazing is that the FA men have not seen the point of gathering together some of the game's most experienced and knowledgeable figures and asking them to produce a shortlist and a recommendation. When Venables took over from Graham Taylor, his case had been persuasively argued by the former England full-back and Leeds and Bolton manager Jimmy Armfield. Why wasn't that practice continued? It might have prevented the aberrations of Glenn Hoddle, when Armfield's role was played down, Kevin Keegan, and, ultimately, Sven Goran Eriksson.

Sadly, the wisdom of former England managers, the late Ron Greenwood and Sir Bobby Robson was steadfastly avoided, with the consequence that Robson now works for the Football Association of Ireland. Perhaps the greatest waste of all in the current situation is the failure to involve Sir Bobby Charlton.

Charlton's qualifications are superb in a number of ways. With his constant travelling as a Fifa ambassador, Charlton's contacts and prestige are immense. His background as one of only two Englishmen - the other was his friend Nobby Stiles - to have won both the World Cup and the European Cup is another glowing testament. But most significant, of course, is that he has already proved himself a great kingmaker.

It was Charlton who argued for Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United despaired of ever finding a manager to walk comfortably in the shoes of Sir Matt Busby, and when Ferguson was in trouble with the crowd and some of the Old Trafford directors, it was he who argued most fiercely in his defence. That alone should have carried Charlton into the FA decision-making process.

Instead, Barwick, Richards and White assess an ever-growing list of candidates. It is a nonsense. Of all the names mentioned so far, less than a handful make sense: Martin O'Neill, Guus Hiddink and, given his credentials, Felipe Luiz Scolari, are all heavyweight contenders, with the outsider Stuart Pearce the one English runner with the right background in international football.

But in the end, how do you make a choice? You ask the relevant questions, and you weigh the strength of the answers. You also go a little on instinct, one hard-won down the years of success and failure, of working with the best men in football, close up and in the heat of action.

That's how it should be. Meanwhile the circus rolls on, picking up headlines by the day and all the time confirming the bleak view that once again the most important job in English football might just as well be settled by lottery.

Mourinho's substitutions betray a lack of composure

Those who argue that in the long run to true greatness Jose Mourinho will ultimately be undone by his lack of anything like a significant playing career can now point to the most persuasive evidence so far.

His decision to replace Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips after just 25 minutes of Chelsea's moribund performance at Fulham on Sunday was shocking at various levels, but surely what it most revealed was a lack of understanding of a player's deepest feelings.

There may have been times when Cole has been in need of a little corrective therapy. In the past he has had a tendency to run away with himself, when tricks have been more evident than a solid body of work. However, that was the past. For both Chelsea and England Cole has been an increasingly effective force, and no doubt Mourinho's fierce powers of motivation have been significant.

However, what he did to Cole and Wright-Phillips at Craven Cottage was not the action of a composed and confident football man. The game was still unformed, and if Mourinho was so dissatisfied with the performance of his wingers he had the time-honoured solution: a touch of the hairdryer at half-time, and the firm resolve to make a further review, say, 15 minutes into the second half.

That is what a confident manager does. He doesn't tear up his original team with 20 minutes to run in the first half. He doesn't inflict that kind of humiliation.

One old pro was saying yesterday: "It was scarcely believable that Mourinho did that. You had to be surprised when he played, in effect, three wingers in Barcelona recently. That destroyed the balance of his team; it was panicky. Now the Fulham decision goes into that category. There is one thing a decent professional hates more than anything. It is being dragged off the field. It is a terrible personal defeat - a real humiliation. Sometimes the tactical situation is obvious, but that is at a stage when a manager is entitled to feel that the game has been formed. They weren't at the formative stage when Cole and Wright-Phillips were yanked."

Is Mourinho really feeling the heat? Is he unnerved by the vote of 100 per cent confidence from Roman Abramovich's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, the man who made Claudio Ranieri's life such a vale of tears? It wouldn't be such a surprise. Roman, never perhaps a bundle of laughs but frequently capable of a smile of great satisfaction, looked about as happy as one of his less well-funded compatriots in a bread queue.

No doubt Mourinho will deliver his second straight Premiership title, though maybe with less of a massive margin than expected and with serious questions about his know-how and composure in the big world of European football. He kept it simple with Porto when he won the big prize, and he kept close to his players.

Now there are hints that his self-absorbed style may have taken a certain edge away from the old mutual affection in the Stamford Bridge dressing-room. If there is any truth to this at all, his display at Fulham will not have helped.

There is no more insecure job in life than that of a professional footballer. In every game you have to confront the vagaries of form and fitness - and risk a career-ending injury. If you're not careful, you can become a ragbag of self-doubt. This is especially so if you get pulled off after 25 minutes. It is something utterly basic in footballers' lives, and Mourinho should know it. But then maybe it is something you don't get out of a coaching manual, and this might just be the problem.

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