James Lawton: Sir Clive's arrival is the lowest point in the proud history of Southampton football

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The Independent Football

There are, however, a few serious issues, and not least the fact that over the years Southampton have gathered a passionate body of support - and for some very good reasons.

Once they had a classic old football man in charge. In his time Ted Bates did everything at The Dell, that supercharged little arena where the Saints never marched with less than unbridled hope.

He cultivated some fine talent, and then he saw the potential of his successor Lawrie McMenemy to nourish veteran stars on the last round-up - men like Kevin Keegan and Joe Jordan to mention just a half dozen in terms of impact - and younger blood. McMenemy won the FA Cup and nourished some viable dreams. Alan Shearer was winkled out of Newcastle. Subsequently, though briefly for one reason or another, there was impressive work by David Jones, whose dismissal was shameful, Glenn Hoddle and Gordon Strachan.

None of this prepared the Southampton supporters for the aberration of Woodward's appointment, one so crass and so offensive to all the canons of success in the game and those professionals who had learnt their business over the years that it was a blessing that it came after Old Ted passed away.

This week, presumably in an attempt to rationalise the irrational, Woodward uttered his most fatuous declaration since asserting that winning Test matches wasn't the only criterion of success on a rugby tour of New Zealand, a statement that came soon after the mind-boggling news that the bizarrely misplaced Alastair Campbell, on top of other calamities, had at one point drawn on his vast experience of sport to provide an officially sanctioned pep talk to some stupefied players.

Now Sir Clive declared: "I'm not here to undermine Harry. I would not want to take the job under those circumstances. If I became manager tomorrow I would fail. If I became a manager within two years I would fail."

In that last sentence we come to the heart of the problem for anyone who knows the first thing about the nature of success in football. It is the astonishing implication that in two years' time Woodward will have passed his coaching badges and thus be qualified to run a famous old football club. It just made you thank God that Bill Shankly had preceded Old Ted to the happy hunting ground of old football men by several decades.

Shankly said that if you could impose academically the art of playing or managing football, if you could implant the correct set of instincts and the knowledge of all the nuances picked up in the professional life, he would have spent much of his time parked outside the various gates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

He would also, he said, have played the old showboating TV intellectual Malcolm Muggeridge at centre-forward. As it was, though, he would prefer Tom Finney, at the age of 60 and wearing an overcoat. Shankly's brother, Bob, once warmed memorably to the theme when he complained to one of his Dundee players, who was university educated, "The trouble with you, son, is that your brains are in your head."

What isn't any more funny now than it was when Bolton's manager Sam Allardyce declared that Eddie Gray, a great player who had spent a lifetime at the highest level, wasn't qualified to coach and manage Leeds United because he hadn't got the right badges, is the idea that football can be learnt in a classroom.

Woodward's late-flowering ambition to join the ranks of the Fergusons and the Wengers and the Mourinhos may be risible, but it isn't the only outrage inflicted by Lowe.

The idea of appointing him alongside the old football man Redknapp, and then presenting the idea of separate responsibilities, is absurd, as it was when Gérard Houllier and Roy Evans were appointed joint managers of Liverpool - a decision that was plainly doomed from the moment of its announcement.

The story of every successful club in the history of the game invariably centres on the reality of one man of knowledge and experience being given the power of clear, unchallenged leadership, at least within the professional establishment. A few obvious examples will do : Busby, Ferguson (Manchester United), Chapman, Graham, Wenger (Arsenal), Revie (Leeds United), Stein (Celtic), and Nicholson (Spurs).

It's true that Mercer and Allison (Manchester City) and Clough and Taylor (Derby, Nottingham Forest) formed outstanding partnerships, but only one man was ultimately answerable to the directors, and Clough and Mercer made both appointments.

None of this is to diminish Woodward's achievements at any point before the New Zealand misadventure. He set up the professional structure that carried England's rugby team to the World Cup. He showed nerve and savvy and had a clear idea of what he wanted. But then what would he have said if his bosses, without any reference to him, had made a crucial appointment affecting the team? Would he have sat, glum but acquiescent as Redknapp did so inexplicably this week, and given any credence to the idea that running a winning team is possible without a clear chain of command? No, he would have done what he did when things were not to his satisfaction. He would have walked out.

That Redknapp, a man of some considerable wealth after a successful and colourful career, has decided to stay put is not the least of the week's mysteries. One point is certain. By doing so, Redknapp diminishes not only his own standing in football but that of every other professional who has learnt his trade in the only place that matters.

Memories of Futch prove as sweet as the trainer's right cross

As Ken Jones wrote so vividly in these pages yesterday, the 30th anniversary of the "Thriller in Manila" is a time to celebrate not only the courage of the great fighters Ali and Frazier but also the man who stopped that eviscerating fight at the end of the 14th round - Smokin' Joe's trainer Eddie Futch.

Futch died four years ago, at the age of 90, but despite that great age his absence from the fight scene still seems unnatural. Right to the end he was as alert as a small game bird.

He could tell you, in mesmerising detail, how it was to spar with Joe Louis back in their native Detroit. He could tell you about a thousand fights, the flow and the quirks of them, and on the last of many treasured encounters - in a Las Vegas coffee shop not so long before he died - he talked about an aspect of the Manila fight that pleased him as much as anything in his lifetime in the old game.

Said Futch: "One of the reasons I stopped Joe going into that last round was that he had some nice kids and I wanted him to see them grow up. Just recently one of Joe's daughters came up to me and said, 'Eddie we all hated you for a long time for making that decision, but now we love you for it.' That makes me feel good."

It was as gratifying, no doubt in a different way, as the time when he connected with a perfect right cross when accosted by a racist in a car park. "The guy went down. It was a sweet punch," reported Futch, his eyes sparkling - as well they might. He was deep into his 80s at the time.

United face Keane sense of loss

Maybe Roy Keane is angling for a new contract, but if he can't play that game, who can?

The weight of Keane's contribution to some of the greatest days Manchester United have ever known has never been more apparent as Sir Alex Ferguson strives to inject into his midfield at least some of the Irishman's authority and passion.

The manager's desire for him to stay, even when the best of Keane's game has plainly gone, is understandable enough for several reasons, all of them psychological.

Now, more than ever, Keane is not so much a player as a state of mind. And it is one that United, Ferguson can argue, cannot afford to lose.

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