Sir Trevor Brooking is a polite and patient man, but once in a while even his famed diplomacy is stretched too far by the frustrations of attempting to run the Football Association's football development department in the face of vested interest from outside and lack of support from within.
That was the case last November when, asked in a BBC radio documentary if he had lost control of his vision for the future of coaching, he replied: "I'm not sure I ever had any control." Berating the Premier League and Football League for resisting his coaching initiatives, he ran into a broadside from the latter's chairman, Lord Mawhinney, who effectively called for his head. Last week in Kazakhstan, he referred to the clubs as "92 little subsidiaries all doing different things to a different level", having earlier observed to this newspaper of Mawhinney and the ubiquitous Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards: "They would love me to disappear. They tried to do it in November [but] the technical people and the public supported me." So they should, and more volubly than before, for the selfish, short-term interests of the clubs at all levels continue to undermine what we constantly need to remind ourselves is the governing body of the sport in this country.
How much more sensible it would have been for that body, founded as long ago as 1863, to have controlled league football from the start, as would be the case in most other countries. Alas, the gentlemen of the London-based FA were so set against the creeping professionalism of the time that William McGregor established the Football League with a dozen Lancashire and Midlands clubs as a separate entity.
McGregor actually served as chairman of the FA simultaneously, avoiding the more serious split that had earlier been threatened by a proposed British Football Association; but in more modern times conflict has always existed, notably when the Football League tried to keep English clubs out of Europe and foisted the League Cup upon us. Their cantankerous old secretary Alan Hardaker once admitted "there now seems to be a state of war between the League and the Football Association"; which was not entirely surprising, as he also labelled the England manager of the day (Don Revie) "totally ruthless, selfish and devious". Mawhinney versus Brooking has a long pedigree.
When clubs in the top division broke away in 1992, however selfish their motivation, there was at least an opportunity for the FA to exert greater control. The FA Premier League was the official title of the competition, its office was in the FA's base at Lancaster Gate and the enhancement of the England team was one of its stated objectives. Yet so effectively was the governing body sidelined that two years ago the new League quietly dropped its FA prefix altogether.
The old conflict is at the heart of Brooking's current travails, made worse by a lack of support from within his own organisation. His appointment in 2004, after 17 years as a professional, then 15 years in sports politics and even a (successful) spell as caretaker manager of West Ham, should have been a perfect fit: an intelligent man of wide experience and highest standards, with a particular interest, as the role demanded, in the development of young footballers.
He would like much of that development to take place at the National Football Centre near Burton that was first proposed in 2001 but not finally endorsed by the full FA board for another six years and cannot be completed before 2011. The idea that such an advanced football nation should still not have a centre for coaching, sports science, analysis, research and preparation for national teams of all ages and both sexes is laughable.
Even if Brooking wins that battle – an endorsement from the new FA chief executive Ian Watmore would help – he will find clubs keen to take FA money for youth development while resisting any attempt to dilute the power of their own academies and their own (often under-qualified) staff. At Premier League level, of course, those academies are stuffed with foreign players, often brought to England by dubious circumvention of Fifa rules on signing players under the age of 18.
And the long-term results of this conflict? "We haven't in England [any] right-backs." That was the national team manager speaking last week, 12 months before the World Cup finals.
Can you Adams and eve these ramblings?
As self-praise never was much of a recommendation, Tony Adams might be best advised to let others do his talking for a while; assuming of course that they have any desire to. In a series of media interviews last week, the former Arsenal and England centre-half initially claimed on a radio programme that Wim Jansen, with whom he once worked at Feyenoord, was about to return to Celtic and that "it would be him as technical director and me as manager – he's actuallysaid he would only do the role if I was to be made manager". By the time Sky Sports News rolled their cameras, the claim was: "Wim obviously put my name up." Unfortunately, this was news to both Jansen – "I can honestly say I don't know anything about it" – and the club, who described the idea as "complete garbage".
Adams' problem is that a CV reading "Wycombe manager, 12 months, relegated, resigned" and "Portsmouth manager, three months, sacked" does not immediately thrust him to the top of every chairman's wish-list, let alone qualify him to achieve such stated ambitions as becoming "the man who rehabilitates the reputation of English coaches in Europe".
Arsenal, his first love, have offered some scouting work. They should also be considering an overdue shake-up of their coaching staff, with Pat Rice and Boro Primorac having sat alongside Arsène Wenger for more than 12 years each. So will Wenger, who greeted his former captain with "welcome to hell" when he was appointed at Pompey, now speak up for him to offer a welcome back to heaven? Or will he maintain a more discreet, telling silence than Adams?Reuse content