The Last Word: If Harry can't get England out of jail, we may as well throw away the key

It is the six noughts, not the Three Lions, which will be tempting Hiddink & Co

Many years ago, before Sven and his harem, Steve and his brolly and Fabio and his captain – before Glenn and his reincarnation and Kevin and his cubicle even – a former columnist on this newspaper proposed the idea that the manager of England be allowed to undertake the role as an inmate of Wormwood Scrubs.

It was written in jest, but, as ever, many a true word seemed to arise. By the end of the article, the journalist had arrived at the viewpoint that it wasn't only feasible but preferable. Actually, when all the outside influences, distractions and intrusions were considered, he couldn't see how the role could be done properly from anywhere else.

How apt that all sounded last week as Harry Redknapp came within one verdict of occupying the said slammer and Capello at last located enough wriggle room to escape his padded cell in Wembley. Then, when everything was apparently sorted and the FA sent us to our beds with reassurance, we awoke to discover the temporary man in charge had admitted to racially abusing a fellow player but, alas, wasn't allowed to pick as his captain a player who doesn't admit to racially abusing a fellow player. Get me the governor of Wormwood Scrubs.

But then, even he would say "not likely". It would drag down The Scrubs' good name to be associated with such an embarrassment; indeed fellow prisoners would probably go to the European Court of Human Rights to protect their image rights. Who would want to be linked with such a toxic position? The answer is, of course, Redknapp. And that is why the FA needs him more than they could ever have imagined. The 64-year-old is part of a dying generation who still view the England job as an honour, as the pinnacle, as the one they can't turn down.

Of course it will be about the money, too, but I very much doubt that, even if they fall short of his expectations by a few quid, Redknapp – or his dog – will resist. There is a mystique seducing him from his teens, when Sir Alf Ramsey became as popular as the Queen, when his boys bestrode the Planet like Gods, when good ol' football men were granted immortality. That's why 'Arry can say it's worth all the 'assle.

But then consider it from a younger man's perspective. In his teens, he would have seen good ol' football men like Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson parodied, before Graham Taylor stumbled on stage to raise the curtain of football management's most enduring pantomime. In the time it takes to don a turnip, offend the disabled, chuck out a few chat-up lines and put up an umbrella, it went from being the top job, to being only the top-paid job as the FA triggered into panic mode. Believe it, it is the six noughts, and not the Three Lions which will be so tempting to Guus Hiddink and the other mercenaries. Plainly, for them it's the Acker that makes it worth the 'assle.

But for anyone who is young and ambitious, England would be a crazy move in their career. The club versus country debate has come so far and the balance has tipped so dramatically that any candidate should think, and think very carefully. What do they want and where do they want to go?

Sir Alf, himself, would struggle to inspire this crop of England players to make it any further than the quarter-finals in the forthcoming European Championship, or indeed, the 2014 World Cup. Everybody seems to know the deep-rooted reasons why and accepts English players aren't as technical. But in the emotional act of defeat, all of this is forgotten. So the poor manager is put on the chopping board while the system groans on in the background. It's Groundhog Day, with a complete change of cast, and still we await the happy ending. For the managers involved as much as the country.

The England experience does something to a man, crushes his mojo, shreds his CV, repudiates his credentials. Hoddle ultimately failed at Wolves, Keegan ultimately failed at Newcastle, Eriksson ultimately failed at Leicester, McClaren ultimately failed at Nottingham Forest – these were the top talent but just look where they have ended up. England has turned into the gaffertorial graveyard for future ambition. Flop there, (as you must), flop everywhere (as you will). The players are beginning to get it.

Their one great chance of overseas glory lies in the Champions' League, playing for the likes of United, City or Chelsea – not England. More and more of them will realise this, recognise the benefits of early international retirement reaped by the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs and plot their way through the bigger picture accordingly.

There is already a trend in this direction and it is a trend which will only pick up pace as the clubs become yet more dominant. In contrast, international football is experiencing a slow death; only in England it's appearing on fast-forward. How the FA require Redknapp to reinstate the lustre to the role, how they need one of the old guard, for whom it means so much, to show the young guard exactly why it should mean so much.

Yet with every passing farce the list of prospective candidates shrinks and not necessarily just because the list of suitable candidates shrinks.

It won't be long before there are bright young things out there and they pick Tottenham before England, place Stamford Bridge above Wembley, value Abu Dhabi over the FA. Maybe all it will take is for Redknapp to walk away from his impending reign in ignominy. Because, quite frankly, if 'Arry can't blag it, nobody can.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk