English football is entering its Lord Kitchener stage. The bugle is sounding for the World Cup and everyone in that green and pleasant land must pull together for the cause. Those who don't will be classed as traitors. Managers, players, officials, journalists, fans... no one should place their own petty lives above the national interest.
Well, what a load of John Bull. The only ones who need to be in it together are the squad and, if they must, the Football Association. The media will be there to report and comment and the supporters will be there to celebrate or whinge. That's the way it should be and will be. So why the pathetic D'Artagnan act?
We've had a taste of this insufferable jingoism this last seven days since the FA chairman was caught on tape telling a young lady of his acquaintance of an alleged plot by the Spanish and Russians to bribe the referees in South Africa. Initially, Lord Treason was accused of wrecking the 2018 World Cup bid. He was the Judas. But as the week grew older, so the finger of blame made further judgements.
First came the honey-trapper herself, then came the obligatory appearance of the famous PR adviser and then followed the damned publishers. All too soon the anatomy of the sting became the story and all too soon the moralising began. Yet in the stampede to uphold the honour of St George, the ethical debate predictably became horribly and irresponsibly skewed. The brunt of the focus did not fall on the issues of privacy, trust, despicable journalism or, indeed, of the presumed baseless accusations about two countries. But rather on what it meant to England and the hosting of a tournament in eight years' time. Through all the wailing it was possible to hear those Great Escape trumpets.
Nobody blew with more zeal than Gary Lineker. He ripped up his contract with the Mail on Sunday saying it would be "hypocritical" to continue as a columnist on a newspaper which had "undermined" a bid for which he is an ambassador. No doubt he is right and the MoS was wrong. But the claim that the national newspapers have a responsibility to the country's World Cup hopes is as over the top as it is naive. Lineker is not daft and has long known the sell-your-own-granny philosophy of certain sections of Fleet Street in the pursuit of sales. What came as a surprise was not the decision to print, but Triesman's suspicions. That should not be forgotten.
Except it will because this is Ingerlund we are talking about and the hype is the bandwagon on which everyone and everything leaps. Perspective and reality are crushed in its roll until the myth comes to its shuddering halt. Cue the recrimination, cue all that "weight of expectation", cue the culprit-spotting. The media will be accused – it always is – but the truth will be much more simple than some subconscious national trait to build them up before knocking them down.
The team will have been technically deficient in the same way that Triesman was found to be deficient as a leader. Why look into it any more deeply? If Fifa are to reject the best bid because of a few crass, unguarded remarks from one man, or even worse because of a piece of crass judgement on behalf of an editor, then so be it. But even that laughable governing body will see this as an irrelevance.
They may even recognise it for what it is: a very English farce. When the nation tried to jump on its high horse and proceeded to go chasing past what should be of genuine concern. The World Cup isn't the be all and end all, in the playing or the hosting. But we're not allowed to suggest that, are we? Not for a month or so, anyway.
Don't keep James back
Some proposals just seem right from the outset and David James becoming the Portsmouth manager is plainly one of these. Yet for some reason the Portsmouth administrator, Andrew Andronikou, has already expressed the opinion that the England goalkeeper is too inexperienced to assume the hotseat. That is a baffling standpoint to take on a few counts.
The first is simple – or should be. An administrator is there to make business and not footballing decisions. Whatever Mr Andronikou believes, the two are separate. He should stick to ensuring St John Ambulance is paid what it is owed and leave the appointment to the incoming chief executive, David Lampitt.
Let us pray he will and that Mr Lampitt recognises the many qualities James has to offer. Not only is he one of the most erudite players around – who on the evidence of his interviews and columns knows and understands everything about the game and its dealings – but he has the interests of this devastated club at heart.
James, don't forget, waived his right to an automatic one-year contract extension in February as he watched Pompey getting sucked into their maelstrom of debt. It scarcely needs saying that the majority of the Premier League mercenaries would resist the temptation to act so altruistically.
Granted, this does not give James the divine right to the dug-out. But along with his many other credentials it should establish him as a front- runner for the job.
If Portsmouth require one attribute above all others, as they begin the rebuilding process, it is people in charge who genuinely care. They've had enough characters down at Fratton Park who were just there for the money. James never was and never will be. It would be a labour of love. And there's no labour more likely to effect a speedy recovery.
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